BEIRUT (Reuters): Lebanon’s cabinet on Thursday failed to meet to choose a successor to long-time central bank governor Riad Salameh, meaning the bank could be leaderless from Monday as the country lurches toward a fifth year of financial turmoil.
Salameh, 72, leaves office on Monday after 30 years as governor with Lebanon’s economy in tatters and facing charges of embezzling public funds, which he denies.
The looming prospect of a leadership vacuum at the central bank raises fears of further state fragmentation, and reflects wider divisions that have also left the presidency vacant and the country without a fully empowered cabinet for over a year.
Caretaker premier Najib Mikati and Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri have led efforts to name a new governor. However, the powerful armed party Hezbollah and its Christian ally the Free Patriotic Movement have rejected the moves, saying a caretaker cabinet had no right to take that step.
Thursday’s cabinet session was canceled minutes after it was set to start because there were not enough ministers to meet the quorum.
“Today, we had an opportunity to temporarily address a file related to the financial and monetary situation. Unfortunately, the political calculations of the concerned parties within the government have priority over others, so let each party bear responsibility for its decision,” a statement by Mikati said.
According to Lebanon’s code of money and credit, the first of four vice governors must take over when Salameh leaves office. But all four have threatened to resign if no successor is appointed, saying the crisis required a governor to lead.