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Top Christian Cleric: 'Shameful' Delay in Cabinet Formation Causing Lebanon's Decay  


FILE - People gather during a protest marking the two-year anniversary of the August 2020 Beirut port blast, in Beirut, Lebanon, Aug. 4, 2022.

Lebanon's top Christian cleric said on Sunday it is "shameful" that politicians have yet to form a new Cabinet nearly three months after elections, blaming their chronic feuding for the country's "decay."

Many Lebanese see the long-entrenched governing elite as hamstrung by corruption and dysfunction, and blame it for pushing Lebanon into a financial and economic meltdown that has left eight in 10 people poor.

In his weekly sermon, Maronite Patriarch Beshara Boutros al-Rai drew an unfavorable comparison between Lebanon's progress in securing a maritime boundary deal with longtime foe Israel and the paralysis in domestic politics.

"Isn't it shameful that authorities make efforts to reach an agreement with Israel on maritime borders but refrain from forming a government? Has it become easier for them to agree with Israel than to agree on a government among the Lebanese?" he said.

FILE - Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rai is pictured during a meeting in Bkerke, Lebanon, Oct. 30, 2021.
FILE - Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rai is pictured during a meeting in Bkerke, Lebanon, Oct. 30, 2021.

"Isn't the split in political power in Lebanon, and of the parties... the basis of the [country's] political, economy, financial and social decay?" he added.

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

In calling out politicians over the crisis, Rai appeared to be trying to break the deadlock.

The Maronite Patriarch said "ugly campaigns in the media" appeared aimed at delaying government formation and the election of a new president later on this year.

FILE - Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati speaks to journalists after his meeting with Lebanese President Michel Aoun, at the Presidential Palace in Baabda, east of Beirut, Lebanon, July 26, 2021.
FILE - Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati speaks to journalists after his meeting with Lebanese President Michel Aoun, at the Presidential Palace in Baabda, east of Beirut, Lebanon, July 26, 2021.

Rai was alluding to an escalating dispute between President Michel Aoun and caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati, who was re-nominated as premier after parliamentary elections in May and has been struggling to form a new Cabinet.

Mikati presented a speedy draft Cabinet line-up to Aoun in June and has stuck to it, although Aoun has suggested a different make-up.

Last week, Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement issued a wave of statements, accusing Mikati of delaying Cabinet formation and even of accumulating wealth through corruption.

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

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