SUN 17 - 2 - 2019
Oct 2, 2018
The Daily Star
Hariri adamant on national unity Cabinet
Hussein Dakroub| The Daily Star
BEIRUT: As the Cabinet formation process has entered its fifth month of deadlock, Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri is more determined than ever to form a national entente Cabinet that represents all the main political parties, rejecting other proposals, political sources said Monday.
“Prime Minister Hariri is holding public and behind-the-scene consultations with various parties to narrow differences over the distribution of key ministerial portfolios and subsequently, reach a consensus on the formation of a national entente government,” a political source close to the process told The Daily Star.
“It is totally out of the question for Hariri to accept the formation of a majoritarian, technocrat or neutral government as has been proposed in the past few weeks. The prime minister-designate wants all the parties to participate in shouldering responsibility for salvaging Lebanon’s ailing economy by implementing the CEDRE conference decisions,” the source said.
This comes a few days after President Michel Aoun, apparently infuriated by the delay in the Cabinet formation, floated the proposal for a majoritarian government if Hariri was unable to form a national unity government. Aoun, speaking to journalists on the plane back to Beirut last Friday after attending the United Nations General Assembly in New York, also said that those who don’t want to join a majority government can stay out.
Hariri has so far not commented on Aoun’s proposal, which is likely to be discussed during the weekly meeting of the Future Movement’s parliamentary bloc Tuesday.
However, Aoun’s proposal appeared to be unraveling after it drew fire from major parliamentary blocs. Two MPs from the Progressive Socialist Party’s Democratic Gathering bloc Sunday slammed Aoun’s proposal and called for the formation a national unity government.
“Hezbollah, the Amal Movement, as well as the Lebanese Forces and the PSP vehemently oppose a majoritarian or one-sided government,” a political source familiar with the formation process told The Daily Star.
Speaker Nabih Berri, the Amal leader, and Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah have repeatedly called for the formation of an all-inclusive national unity government that would not exclude any party.
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.
In past weeks, a proposal for a majoritarian government was floated by some members of the Free Patriotic Movement’s parliamentary Strong Lebanon bloc as the Cabinet formation process was bogged down by the parties’ haggling over key ministerial portfolios.
The proposal was seen as aimed at excluding the LF and the PSP from the new government, as their demands for significant Cabinet representation have largely been blamed for delaying its formation.
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 FPM.
Aoun voiced a number of reservations over the formula, particularly over the allocation of ministerial posts to the LF and the PSP.
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.
Former Future MP Mustafa Alloush, a member of the Future Movement’s political bureau, said a decision by Aoun to “act as the president of the republic, rather than as the head of the Free Patriotic Movement” would help accelerate the government formation.
“Each side has taken measures to facilitate the formation. The Lebanese Forces has offered what it can, while the PSP has expressed readiness for compromise. Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri has never demanded a share for the prime minister. What is left is the Free Patriotic Movement, which is supposed to seek nine ministers, not more,” Alloush said in an interview with Akhbar al-Yom news agency.
But MP George Atallah from the Strong Lebanon bloc rejected accusations that the FPM was obstructing the government formation. Instead, he blamed the delay on the lack of a unified criterion in formation.
“The government formation has not yet taken a serious twist because Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri has not so far adopted a unified criterion in formation that will reassure everyone,” Atallah told the Voice of Lebanon radio station.
“The ball is in the court of the prime minister-designate who holds consultations with all the parties and sets a unified criterion to conform with the consultations and presents it to the president.”
“The FPM is not obstructing the formation. It is demanding that the results of elections be respected and the adoption of a unified criterion to be applied to everyone. The [Cabinet] size of the [Lebanese] Forces is not decided by the FPM, but by a unified criterion,” Atallah 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, including Aoun’s share, of the 15 ministerial portfolios set aside for Christians in a 30-member government, while the LF has claimed five.
FPM leader and caretaker Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil has been accused by LF officials of seeking to monopolize Cabinet seats and preventing the party from obtaining Cabinet representation commensurate with the results of the May 6 elections, in which the LF nearly doubled its number of MPs, from eight to 15.
Meanwhile, caretaker Education Minister Marwan Hamadeh from the PSP’s bloc said in remarks published Monday that he “had never seen worse than this presidential term and this [caretaker] government.”
In an interview with An-Nahar newspaper marking the 14th anniversary of his assassination attempt, Hamadeh said, “I look back and I see red [blood] covering our skies, and I look forward and I see black in our horizon.” He added that he hopes that the government will be formed soon, although he said he is not optimistic about the proposed draft Cabinet lineups.
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