Aoun leaves Lebanon presidential palace in style as term ends

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BEIRUT: President Michel Aoun was accompanied by a convoy as he headed for his house in Rabieh on Sunday, bringing his six-year term to a close.

Hundreds of supporters of Lebanese Aoun pitched up tents around the presidential palace on Saturday, settling in for an overnight stay to offer the controversial leader a colorful send-off.

Aoun’s party, the Free Patriotic Movement, laid up dozens of tents in the woods surrounding the presidential palace so fans could camp out and bid farewell to their leader in style.

Despite the problems surrounding the end of Aoun’s term and parliament’s failure to nominate a replacement within the two-month constitutional timeframe, the FPM determined to make Aoun’s departure a colorful affair.

Aoun gained office six years ago following a more than two-year presidential vacuum, and he will step down on Monday without appointing a successor.

In both cases, the vacuum was caused by Aoun’s fixation on becoming president and then handing over the presidency to a member of his entourage.

In one of his final interviews, Aoun assured Reuters that US sanctions would not prevent his son-in-law and FPM leader Gebran Bassil from running for president.

“Once he is elected president, the sanctions will be lifted,” Aoun stated.

In November 2020, the US sanctioned Bassil, a Hezbollah associate, for corruption.

“Hezbollah’s presence was useful as a deterrence in the indirect negotiations to demarcate the sea border with Israel,” Aoun warned of constitutional anarchy following his departure under a caretaker administration with limited powers.

“The official ceremonies for Aoun’s departure from the presidential palace begin at 11 a.m.,” presidential spokesman Rafic Chlala stated. on Sunday, with the famous festivities beginning at 11:30.”

The FPM is arranging the celebrations under the theme “We’ll stay with you,” and Bassil has encouraged his fans and friends to “proudly” accompany Aoun.

The decree recognizing the caretaker government’s resignation has allegedly been finished, and Aoun is scheduled to sign it on Monday, the final day of his tenure, to avoid any disruptions to Sunday celebrations.

Aoun and his political team have refused to allow interim Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s government to take over the administration, claiming that it has “lost legitimacy since resigning after the May legislative elections.”

Mikati was appointed to create a new administration but has yet to do so, leaving him in charge of a caretaker government.

Bassil accused Mikati and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri on Saturday of plotting to auction off the president’s remaining powers in the post-Aoun period.

“We are prepared to fight back and prevent them from taking away the president’s authority.” “This is a warning,” he explained.

According to a source close to Mikati, publishing a decree acknowledging the government’s resignation is futile because it makes no difference in reality.

Mikati has often stated that he will not be confrontational or controversial and will adhere to the constitution, according to the source.

The Lebanese Forces party, a bitter foe of the Free Patriotic Movement, will not attend the celebrations on Sunday.

“The party leader, Samir Geagea, issued an internal memorandum asking partisans to avoid any celebration that might be organized in their villages or regions on the occasion of Aoun’s departure from the presidential palace, because it is a day of deep sadness due to the situation in the country, and fear that the other party may take advantage of this occasion to engage in provocations,” said Charles Jabbour, head of the party’s communication and media team.

“The threat to sign a decree recognizing the government’s resignation does not change reality,” Jabbour remarked. Rather, it is a last-minute blackmail attempt to build a government to his liking; else, Aoun’s team ministers will boycott the government. Such tactics will undoubtedly add unnecessary hurdles to the country. The most important issue is the country’s security stability since that is all we have left.”

The leader of Lebanon’s Kataeb Party, Sami Gemayel, has encouraged his supporters to “avoid harsh rhetoric and provocations on Sunday, out of respect for the presidency and Aoun’s person.”

Source: Arab News

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