FRI 15 - 2 - 2019
Date: Jul 11, 2018
Source: The Daily Star
Hariri: Sacrifices needed to hasten Cabinet formation
Hussein Dakroub| The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Acknowledging political rivals’ jockeying for key Cabinet shares was delaying the formation of a new government, Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri Tuesday urged in a stern tone all the parties to make sacrifices to accelerate its formation.

Speaking to reporters after a two-hour meeting with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri at the latter’s Ain al-Tineh residence, Hariri said he and the speaker were on the same wavelength regarding the need to speed up the government formation in order to stimulate the country’s ailing economy and carry out reforms demanded by the CEDRE conference.

Hariri stressed all the parties must realize the government formation should be a top priority, adding regional turmoil and the worsening economic situation should serve as a catalyst for hastening its formation.

“I discussed with Speaker Berri the situation in the country and the issue of the government formation. [We] are on the same wavelength. We must accelerate the government formation as soon as possible. The situation in the region prods us to do this and the economic situation calls on us to set the economic wheel into motion,” Hariri told reporters after the meeting that included a lunch hosted by Berri for the prime minister-designate, who was accompanied by two of his key advisers, caretaker Culture Minister Ghattas Khoury and former MP Bassem Sabeh.

Referring to the economic crisis, Hariri said, “We have a golden opportunity to be able to implement the CEDRE conference [demands]. The entire international community is keen on our stability and has given us [loans and grants] at the conference in Paris. We also must carry out the necessary reforms.”

During the CEDRE conference held in Paris in April, one of three international conferences in support of Lebanon, donor countries pledged over $11 billion in soft loans and grants to finance investment and infrastructure projects in Lebanon.

“Everyone must realize that the government formation is a top priority. I know there are some differences between some parties, but all of us must rise above these differences and take the country’s interest into account.

“In my opinion, making sacrifices for the interest of the country’s economy and the country itself is something we must do,” Hariri said, clearly referring to the differences between the Free Patriotic Movement and the Lebanese Forces, which are locked in a bitter struggle over Christian representation in the new government.

Hariri defended his political settlement with President Michel Aoun that led to Aoun’s election as president in October 2016 and Hariri's return to the premiership.

“I am convinced that we must make sacrifices for the consensus we had reached. Everyone must make sacrifices for it. This sacrifice is not for one side against another, but for the country,” he said, adding, “I have made a sacrifice and we reached a settlement to elect a president. I did not consider this settlement for me but for the country.”

Hariri said he agreed with Berri on urging all the parties to help expedite the government formation, adding that he will have several meetings in the next two or three days to accelerate the formation.

Hariri spoke by telephone with Aoun Tuesday, informing him of his planned consultations on the government formation.

MP Wael Abu Faour, delegated by former MP Walid Joumblatt, leader of the Progressive Socialist Party, met with Hariri Tuesday night at the latter’s Downtown Beirut residence to discuss the problem of Druze representation in the government.

The LF representation, and the representation of the Druze sect, are two major hurdles facing Hariri in his attempts to form a 30-member national unity government comprising all the country’s political parties.

Joumblatt has insisted that the PSP’s parliamentary Democratic Gathering bloc be allocated the three ministerial posts reserved for the Druze sect in a 30-member Cabinet. His demand appears to be aimed at preventing his Druze rival, MP Talal Arslan, from being named as a minister.

Further complicating Hariri’s mission are the spiraling tensions between the FPM and the LF in past weeks over Christian representation in the government. More than a month and a half after he was designated to form a new government with an overwhelming parliamentary majority for the third time, Hariri admitted that the obstacles facing him are still the same – namely the parties’ tough competition over Cabinet shares.

“In my opinion, the problem of [Cabinet] quotas is the main problem. I want to say that in this country no one can eliminate the other. We all have tried during the past 13 years, but we and others have failed,” he said.

“I think that the problem is solvable and all the other political parties must focus primarily not on the [Cabinet] quotas, but on the country,” Hariri said. “If we are going to focus on what each side will get, we won’t finish. We must focus on forming this government.”

He said “big challenges,” such as fighting corruption and carrying out economic reforms, are awaiting the new government.

The Berri-Hariri meeting came a day after the speaker threatened to call a Parliament session to elect heads and members of parliamentary committees, in a move reflecting his frustration and annoyance at the delay in the formation of a new government.

Following his talks with Berri, Hariri chaired the weekly meeting of the Future Movement’s parliamentary bloc which emphasized that priority should be given to the government formation.

“The bloc believes that at this stage nothing should have priority over the formation of the government and the launch of the work of the executive and legislative authorities,” a statement issued after the meeting said.

“This requires the leaders and all concerned parties to remain calm, avoid political and media campaigns, and adopt the choices that help accelerate the birth of a ministerial work team that rises to the level of the hopes and aspirations of the Lebanese. The quarrel over quotas, roles and sizes will not change reality.”

The bloc said there was no room for “political luxury” as Lebanon was facing economic challenges and regional changes and risks.

Renewing its confidence in Hariri’s designation, the bloc said it betted on the wisdom of all other leaders to get out of “this cycle of obstacles.”

Meanwhile, Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai said after meeting Aoun that the president was confident about the government formation.

“The president reassures [the Lebanese] that the government will be formed. But we hope that blocs will look into Lebanon away from their personal interests,” Rai said.

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