‘Shameful’ delay in government formation caused Lebanon’s decadence, senior Christian cleric says

BEIRUT, Aug 7 (Reuters) – Lebanon’s Christian religious leader said on Sunday it was “shameful” that politicians had yet to form a new cabinet nearly three months after the election, blaming their chronic bickering for the “degradation” of the country.

Many Lebanese view the long-standing ruling elite as crippled by corruption and dysfunction, and blame it for pushing Lebanon into a financial and economic collapse that has left eight out of 10 people poor. Read more

In his weekly sermon, Maronite Patriarch Beshara Boutros al-Rai drew an unfavorable comparison between Lebanon’s progress in securing a maritime border agreement with its longtime enemy Israel and the paralysis of domestic politics.

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“Isn’t it shameful that the authorities are trying to reach an agreement with Israel on the maritime borders but refrain from forming a government? Has it become easier for them to agree with Israel than to agree on a government between the Lebanese? he said.

“Isn’t the splitting of political power in Lebanon, and of the parties… the basis of the political, economic, financial and social decadence of the (country)?” he added.

Rai wields significant influence in Lebanon, where the political system is based on power sharing between various Muslim and Christian sects, with the presidency reserved for a Maronite Catholic.

By challenging politicians on the crisis, Rai seemed to be trying to break the deadlock.

The Maronite patriarch said “ugly media campaigns” appeared to be aimed at delaying the formation of the government and the election of a new president later this year.

Rai was referring to a growing dispute between President Michel Aoun and interim Prime Minister Najib Mikati, who was reappointed prime minister after May’s legislative elections and is struggling to form a new cabinet.

Mikati presented a quick draft cabinet composition to Aoun in June and stuck to it, although Aoun suggested a different composition.

Last week, Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement released a flurry of statements accusing Mikati of delaying cabinet formation and even amassing wealth through corruption.

Mikati’s office responded by saying that Aoun’s party was out of touch with reality in Lebanon.

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Reporting by Maya Gebeily; edited by Mark Heinrich

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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