MON 18 - 2 - 2019
Oct 1, 2018
The Daily Star
Aoun majority government proposal seen unraveling
Hussein Dakroub| The Daily Star
BEIRUT: A controversial proposal by President Michel Aoun for the formation of a majority government if a national unity Cabinet cannot be formed appeared to be unraveling Sunday after it came under fire by major parliamentary blocs, political sources said.
“In addition to Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s declared commitment to the formation of a national entente government, the two main Shiite parties, Hezbollah and the Amal Movement, as well as the Lebanese Forces and the Progressive Socialist Party vehemently oppose a majoritarian or one-sided government,” a political source familiar with the Cabinet formation process told The Daily Star.
The source recalled repeated statements made separately in recent weeks by Speaker Nabih Berri, leader of the Amal Movement, and Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah in which they underlined the importance of an all-embracing national unity government that would not exclude any party.
A source at Baabda Palace also played down Aoun’s proposal, apparently in the face of mounting opposition from various groups.
“President Aoun’s proposal is not binding. The president has said if we are unable to form a national unity government, shall we keep the country without a government? The majoritarian government proposal was one of the options to break the deadlock,” the source told The Daily Star Sunday.
Speaking to journalists on the plane that flew him back to Beirut Friday after attending the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Aoun said if Hariri was unable to form a national unity government, the second option would be to form a majoritarian one. Aoun also said that those who don’t want to join a majority government can stay out.
Although Hariri has not so far commented on Aoun’s proposal, MP Assem Araji from the Future Movement’s parliamentary bloc rejected the proposal, telling The Daily Star Friday that a majoritarian government would deepen political divisions in the country. Berri also refrained from commenting on Aoun’s proposal, telling visitors at his Ain al-Tineh residence: “There is nothing new in this respect [Cabinet formation].”
Since he was designated for the third time on May 24 to form a new Cabinet, Hariri has pledged to form a national entente government embracing all the main political parties represented in the new Parliament that was elected on May 6.
A majority government, meanwhile, would have to secure the support of 65 MPs, half of Parliament’s 128 members plus one, in a vote of confidence after a lineup is approved by the president and premier-designate.
A possible meeting this week between Aoun and Hariri to discuss the Cabinet formation crisis is contingent on whether the premier-designate has answers to the president’s reservations over the draft Cabinet formula, the Baabda source said.
“The president has requested amendments to the first draft Cabinet lineup concerning the distribution of ministerial portfolios among the major blocs,” the source said.
“The Lebanese Forces has returned to its demand for five ministries, including the post of the deputy prime minister,” the source said, adding that the problem of Druze representation has also not been solved yet.
Hariri presented Aoun with his first draft Cabinet formula on Sept. 3, but it did not succeed in breaking the deadlock after failing to gain the support of Aoun and the Free Patriotic Movement. Aoun voiced a number of reservations over the formula, particularly over the allocation of ministerial posts to the Lebanese Forces and the Progressive Socialist Party.
In the stalled Cabinet formula, the LF was allocated four ministries: Justice, Education, Social Affairs and Culture, while the PSP was granted three ministers set aside for the Druze sect. The problems of Christian and Druze representation are the two main stumbling blocks to the Cabinet formation.
Two lawmakers from the PSP’s parliamentary Democratic Gathering bloc lashed out at Aoun’s majority government proposal, and called for the formation a national unity Cabinet.
“They are hinting at a majoritarian government. If they consider that the [parliamentary] majority has been imported from abroad, congratulations to them. Our majority stems from the people and genuine representation,” MP Bilal Abdullah told a medical lecture in Iqlim al-Kharroub district, south of Beirut. “Let them try to govern the country if they are capable of doing so without the participation of the rest of political parties and components.”
“All of Lebanon is waiting for the birth of the government. Everyone is required to facilitate this mission. No one should dream that it is possible to find a compromise at the expense of one side against the other. Everyone is required to make concessions,” Abdullah said.
MP Faisal Sayegh seemed to hit back at the majority government proposal, while again signaling the PSP’s readiness to compromise on the Cabinet formation process.
“Necessity now requires that we hasten the formation of a national unity government headed by Prime Minister[-designate] Saad Hariri, in which all political powers in the country are represented based on the results of the [May 6] parliamentary elections,” Sayegh said during a PSP-organized conference on developing the transportation sector. “We call on everyone for a mutual compromise that does not constitute a [defeat] to anyone, but a victory for the people’s will.”
LF leader Samir Geagea Sunday called on supporters and members of his party to avoid political rhetoric with rivals, saying “differences are not solved by pouring oil on the fire, but through dialogue and constructive communication and working to narrow differences.”
In a statement issued by the LF’s media office, Geagea said his party had taken “all possible measures to facilitate and accelerate the formation of a government capable of meeting the challenges.”
“Rhetoric, differences and confrontations will help push Lebanon toward the abyss,” he added.
The LF has been embroiled for more than four months in a fierce struggle with the FPM over Christian representation in the next Cabinet. The FPM has laid claim to 11 of the 15 ministerial portfolios set aside for Christians in a 30-member government, while the LF has claimed five.
MP Fadi Saad from the LF’s parliamentary Strong Republic bloc called on Aoun to take a decision on the government formation and issue his instructions to put an end to the “greed” of some politicians, in a clear allusion to FPM leader and caretaker Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil.
Bassil has been accused by LF officials of seeking to monopolize Cabinet seats and preventing the party from obtaining significant Cabinet representation commensurate with the results of the elections, in which the LF nearly doubled its number of MPs, from eight to 15.
“We will not abandon our right with regard to Cabinet [share]. The attempts to downsize the Lebanese Forces and through it downsizing the sovereign team in Lebanon are doomed to failure,” Saad told an LF gathering in the northern town of Batroun.
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