Lebanon's power vacuum makes it difficult to take urgent decisions

The Mediterranean country has been without a head of state for more than a month after the expiry of Michel Aoun's mandate
Nayib Mikati

PHOTO/DALATI NOHRA vía AP  -   Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati during a press conference at the government palace in Beirut, Lebanon

The Lebanese Council of Ministers met today for the first time since a head of state vacuum began more than a month ago and managed to approve some urgent points, despite the boycott of several incumbents who consider that the body should not take these decisions because it is interim. "If we had not held a Cabinet session today, the health sector, especially cancer patients and patients who need dialysis, would have been hit hard," Prime Minister Najib Mikati said after the meeting, according to a statement from the Cabinet presidency. 

Among the items approved during the session was a request to the central bank to disburse the equivalent of $35 million a month in special drawing rights for the next three months for the purchase of medicines for chronic diseases and cancers, and medical supplies. 

A request to secure supplies for the Lebanese army in 2023 and another vital provision for the state-owned telecommunications company Ogero also received the green light, according to the note. "If we had not taken the right decision, the international telecommunications sector and the internet would have been under threat of total shutdown within a week," Mikati said. 

The session took place despite a boycott by several ministers close to former president Michel Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement, who when his term expired at the end of October without a successor sought to dissolve the executive to prevent it from taking over the head of state's powers.

AFP /DALATI Y NOHRA - President Michal Aoun delivering a televised speech on the eve of the country's 78th independence day, at the Baabda presidential palace, east of the capital, 21 November 2021

However, Mikati then announced that the government would continue with its "constitutional" work even though it had been in interim rule since last June, a month in which disagreements between the different parties had prevented the formation of a new Cabinet with full powers. 

Parliament gave its approval to the continuation of the Council of Ministers, which the prime minister had promised not to convene except in the case of the utmost urgency. "None of us wants to replace the President of the Republic, and for this problem to be solved, a President of the Republic must be elected quickly. The constitution has assigned us certain tasks and we must carry them out clearly," the Prime Minister said, according to the statement. 

In addition to being in the hands of a divided interim executive, Lebanon has been without a president since 31 October and parliament is unlikely to reach a minimum agreement in the near future on a candidate to take the reins of power.