Political crisis deepens in Lebanon

BEIRUT (HPD) — President Michel Aoun left Lebanon’s presidential palace on Sunday, marking the end of his six-year term without a replacement, leaving the small nation in a political vacuum that is likely to worsen its historic economic collapse.

The country is currently run by a caretaker government after Prime Minister Designate Najib Mikati was unable to form a new cabinet following parliamentary elections on May 15. Aoun and his supporters have said such a government does not have full power to run the country and warn of weeks of “constitutional chaos” ahead.

In a speech outside the palace, Aoun told thousands of supporters that he accepted the resignation of the Mikati government. The move is likely to further deprive the interim administration of legitimacy and worsen political tensions in the country.

Mikati responded shortly after in a statement saying his government will continue to carry out its duties in accordance with the Constitution.

Many fear a prolonged power vacuum could further delay attempts to finalize a deal with the International Monetary Fund that would provide Lebanon with some $3 billion in aid, seen as a key step in helping the country emerge from a three-year financial crisis that has left 75% of the population in poverty.

While it is not the first time that Parliament has failed to name a successor at the end of a presidential term, it will be the first time that there will be no president and an interim cabinet with limited powers.

The constitution allows — under regular circumstances — the cabinet to run the government, but it is unclear whether that applies to a caretaker government.

Wissam Lahham, a constitutional law professor at St. Joseph University in Beirut, told The Associated Press that the governance problems the country will face are more political than legal.

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