FRI 19 - 4 - 2019
Date: Sep 7, 2018
Source: The Daily Star
Berri: Constitution clear on Cabinet formation process
Ghinwa Obeid| The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Speaker Nabih Berri Thursday said he would welcome a letter to Parliament from President Michel Aoun, adding that the Constitution clearly defines the prerogatives of both the president and the prime minister-designate in the Cabinet formation process.

Last month, Aoun was said to be planning to send a letter to Parliament explaining the obstacles facing the formation of a national unity government. But the president has not yet taken such a measure.

“This is a constitutional right for the president,” Berri replied when asked what he would do if the president sent him a letter. “The speaker should take the necessary action.”

Berri’s comments during a meeting with a delegation from the Journalists Union at his Ain al-Tineh residence followed renewed fears that the country may not see a new government anytime soon.

These concerns mounted after Aoun disagreed with a Cabinet formula that Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri presented to him early this week.

A source close to Hariri told The Daily Star Thursday that there were no new developments on the process.

Hariri was tasked in May with forming a government, but his efforts have faced obstacles amid demands from several political sides.

Hariri presented Aoun with a Cabinet formula Monday, but shortly after the premier-designate left Baabda Palace, Aoun’s office issued a statement saying that the president “had some remarks on the [lineup] based on the principles and criteria that he had specified for the government’s structure and that Lebanon’s interests require.”

The statement sparked tension between Hariri’s Future Movement and the Free Patriotic Movement –founded by Aoun – over the prerogatives of the president and that of the prime minister-designate when it comes to government formation. “There is no doubt that the Constitution is clear and that the government is announced with the consensus of both [Aoun and Hariri]. As for who forms the government, it is the premier-designate,” Berri said Thursday.

Nevertheless, the speaker reiterated that his main concern is for a government to come together, saying that the economic situation can’t handle any further delays. “Let them form the government, and the Parliament has the right to explain the Constitution. What I care about now is for the Cabinet to be formed because it is necessary.”

Berri brushed off talk that it took previous governments months to see the light of day, saying that the economic situation then wasn’t similar to what the country is currently witnessing.

“The economic situation is dangerous ... and I said [Wednesday] that Lebanon is in the intensive care ward. Of course, I didn’t talk about the financial situation. I spoke about the economic situation, which can eventually lead to negative results,” he said.

During the meeting, the speaker recalled what he told the premier-designate after Hariri was tasked with the forming a government: that although the Amal Movement bloc grew with the parliamentary elections on May 6, Berri was satisfied with keeping the same number of ministers as in the current caretaker Cabinet – three.

“This is also Hezbollah’s position,” Berri said. “I relayed this to Hariri at the time and my position still stands.”

“We are all responsible,” Berri replied when asked who was to blame for obstructing government formation.

For a second day, Future Movement-affiliated Future TV had a strongly worded evening news preamble.

“There is no row on the prerogatives between the president and the premier[-designate] because this isn’t present in the lexicon of Aoun and Hariri, but present among those instigating constitutional strife,” it said.

It added that the Future Movement hadn’t been planning on entering the debate and had disregarded several offenses against Hariri, but said the Future Movement was no longer able to disregard the accusations.

It also said that the Taif Accord, which ended the 1975-90 Civil War, would continue to be a red line, as would political stability.

With Hariri expected to head to the Netherlands next week to attend hearings of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and Aoun also scheduled to leave on foreign trips, there are no signs the crisis will be resolved soon.

“Hariri is holding consultations, but there are no new developments,” the source close to Hariri said.

Earlier in the day, the premier-designate met with caretaker Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil, a key political aide to Berri. A statement from Hariri’s office said the meeting focused on the ongoing efforts to form a new government. Hariri also received caretaker Education Minister Marwan Hamadeh. “There is no government in sight,” Hamadeh said afterward, according to Voice of Lebanon radio (100.5).

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