Prime Minister Tammam Salam on Monday stressed that the Constitution is “clear” and “indisputable” regarding the powers of the government during a presidential vacuum, noting that “the PM is the one who asks cabinet to convene and prepares the session agenda.”
“I will not cease my efforts to secure the election of a new president,” Salam said during an interview with MTV.
He reminded that the government is “exercising the authorities of the presidency by delegation” while working “according to a vision seeking the election of a new president.”
“The situation is extraordinary and things are not normal and this requires everyone to exert serious efforts to fill the vacuum,” Salam said.
“The governmental authority is a political coalition in which the political forces have reached a consensus over the cabinet's work, and had it not been for this consensus, the security plan that is covering the entire country would not have been approved,” the PM added.
He lamented that “there is an unstable political situation that has not facilitated the election of a president until the moment,” but noted that “the cabinet's latest session had witnessed profound discussions and everyone demonstrated their vision and this is a normal thing.”
“I have been clear and I have said that the constitutional powers are indisputable, as the premier is the one who asks cabinet to convene, prepares the agenda and presides over the session,” Salam added.
Addressing the political forces that are represented in cabinet, the PM stated: “We are before the challenge of securing the country's needs without behaving in a confrontational spirit in raising our ideas.”
“I did not announce that the ministers have no say in preparing the agenda, and they have 24 hours to voice their remarks over the agenda and suggest any changes,” he added.
“I'm open to all ministers and they can contact me to express any reservations. I'm willing to do anything so that we hold a session free of any disputes,” Salam pointed out.
Recalling the May 30 cabinet session, the first during the current presidential vacuum, Salam added: “We did not reach a final decision over any issue in the first session but it was full of ideas and every minister made two interventions. There was a very rich understanding and 99% of things were positive and we're heading toward cooperation in this difficult period.”
“If anyone (any minister) is absent, the cabinet's work does not stop, but we don't want to give the impression that things are going normally in the country because there is a defect that has to do with the National Pact of coexistence, which is the absence of a president,” said Salam.
“We will continue discussions over the issue of (the cabinet's) quorum and other matters because we want everyone's approval of any idea. I want our decisions to be sound, strong and built upon consensus so that they be effective,” the premier underlined.
He warned that any non-consensual decision will not leave the government or the country in a “comfortable situation.”
“I hope we will be able to finalize the debate over jurisdiction during tomorrow's session,” Salam said.
In response to a question, the PM insisted that “this cabinet is not a 'presidential council'.”
“I'm against paralyzing the parliament because we have not gained anything from paralysis,” Salam said.
Asked about the possibility that some ministers might resign from the cabinet, the PM said: “I do not accept to carry on without consensus, so I cannot continue in a cabinet that does not respect confessional power-sharing.”
“Amid the situations that we're going through, I believe that the presidential elections will not be an easy task and (Interior) Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq's viewpoint that a president can be elected in August is a very optimistic viewpoint, because unfortunately there are no such indications,” Salam went on to say.
He voiced his belief that the first factor that affects the presidential election is “the traditional inter-Christian competition.”
“Should there be a Christian agreement, we will be able to elect a president,” he added.
Turning to the issue of his recent talks with al-Mustaqbal movement leader ex-PM Saad Hariri, Salam said: “I discussed the presidential vote with ex-PM Hariri and the meeting was an opportunity to discuss a lot of topics.”
“I sensed that he is not seeking any personal gains and that he only wants to make sure that the country is on the right track. He said he is only hoping for the election of a president and Lebanon's prosperity,” Salam added.
Asked about the ongoing dialogue between Hariri and the Free Patriotic Movement and its impact on the presidential vote, Salam said “the issue of the presidency is not about certain individuals but rather about stabilizing the situation in Lebanon through the election of a president.”
“This is the vision that ex-PM Hariri is working for and he has showed openness toward the FPM in this context. This openness does not mean that he will elect one person instead of another. This is about reaching a consensual atmosphere that paves the ground for the election of a consensual president,” added Salam.
“Any figure can endorse the consensual approach and can turn into a consensual figure, but we have not yet reached this point and things are still in the hands of the Christian leaders, who are competing and challenging each other,” he went on to say.
Parliament had failed to elect a successor to president Michel Suleiman -- whose six-year term ended on May 25 -- despite having held five electoral sessions for that purpose.
Until the moment only Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea and Democratic Gathering MP Henri Helou have announced official presidential nominations, while Aoun has insisted that he will only run in the race as a “consensual candidate.”
Aoun's demand and the March 8 camp's rejection of Geagea's nomination prompted the Hizbullah-led March 8 forces to boycott four electoral sessions that required a quorum of two thirds of the 128-member legislature.
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