WED 22 - 5 - 2019
Date: Oct 3, 2018
Source: The Daily Star
Future bloc: New proposals risk plunge into paralysis
Hussein Dakroub| The Daily Star
BEIRUT: The Future Movement’s parliamentary bloc Tuesday warned against proposing new formulas for Cabinet formation and plunging Lebanon again into a situation where state institutions are paralyzed.

The bloc was apparently referring to a proposal floated by President Michel Aoun last week for the formation of a majoritarian government if Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri was unable to form a national unity government, and also to the 2014 presidential vacuum caused by the Free Patriotic Movement that left the country without a president for 2 1/2 years.

In a statement issued after its weekly meeting chaired by Hariri at his Downtown residence, the bloc again appealed to all political parties to facilitate the premier-designate’s mission to form a national entente government by making mutual concessions.

The appeal comes as the Cabinet formation process has been deadlocked for a fifth month with no solution in sight and opposing sides showing no signs of softening their demands for key portfolios.

“The return to the policy of raising the ceilings of ministerial demands, proposing new equations for the formation and considering the Cabinet lineup a gift box from which we give presents to whom we want and prevent others from getting presents reflects the existence of wills that are not in a hurry to form the government, but to plunge the country into a new experience of paralyzing the institutions and suspending constitutional work,” the bloc said in its statement.

“In this regard, the bloc regrets the duplication of past obstruction experiences without being aware of the serious damage they caused, both in terms of deepening the internal dispute, or in terms of its high cost on the economic growth and the state finances,” the statement said.

“It has become known to all Lebanese that the cost of disruption, indecision, lack of initiative, loss of opportunities and political clashes in recent years, constitute the biggest burden that the [state] Treasury suffers from, under the pressure of developments that can no longer be overlooked or covered,” it added.

Hariri has so far not commented publicly on Aoun’s proposal, which was believed to have been discussed among other topics during the bloc’s meeting.

Last week, Aoun, apparently infuriated by the delay in the Cabinet formation, floated a proposal for a majoritarian government in the event that Hariri was unable to form a national unity government. Speaking with journalists on his way back to Beirut from New York, Aoun was also reported to have said that those who don’t want to join such a government can stay out.However, Aoun’s proposal appeared to be unraveling after it drew fire from major parliamentary blocs.

The FPM, founded by Aoun, and its ally, Hezbollah, had been blamed for the presidential vacuum, which ended with the election of Aoun as president on Oct. 31, 2016, as part of a political settlement reached between the FPM and the Future Movement that also brought Hariri back to the premiership.

The Future bloc urged political adversaries to help Hariri in his attempts to form a national entente government by lowering their demands.

“The Future bloc calls on political powers to facilitate the task of the prime minister-designate to break the cycle of criteria and countercriteria, and choose the public interest and mutual concessions imposed by internal and external challenges,” the statement said.

“He [Hariri] is betting on the activation of contacts and continues to seek to form a national entente government, whose parties are united in confronting all events and risks,” it added.

Referring to repeated calls made by various political parties for uprooting corruption and putting an end to the waste of public funds as means of revitalizing the sluggish economy, the bloc said: “Everyone should understand that the peak of waste lies in policies that lead to delaying the government formation, disrupting the work of institutions and moving from one open political crisis to another, which could enable administrative and financial corruption to control many sections of the state.”

“In this regard, it is enough to mention that the percentages of the declared estimates of the state budget are 30 percent salaries and wages, 30 percent cost of public debt, 30 percent subsidy for electricity and 10 percent for state projects and services for the Lebanese,” the statement said.

It added that these estimates should serve as an “alarm bell” for the presidency, Parliament and government that staying in the “whirlpool of polarization, fabrication of excuses and conditions and returning to square one in the government formation process, are unacceptable.”

Speaker Nabih Berri weighed in on the Cabinet crisis, warning of dire economic consequences for the country caused by a further delay in the government formation. “Some foreign powers seem to be more worried about Lebanon and more concerned about the formation of its government than some Lebanese parties,” visitors to Ain al-Tineh, the speaker’s residence, quoted Berri as saying.

Berri said the tone of foreign visitors he met recently was not reassuring about Lebanon’s situation. “They urged us to deal with this situation before it gets worse and aggravates while we are engrossed in polarization and differences over shares and sizes in the new government,” he said.

Berri added that a World Bank delegation that visited him Tuesday briefed him on the “sensitive economic situation” in Lebanon, while they spoke frankly about “negative facts and indications that call for worry.”

“They presented me with figures on the repercussions of the electricity file and other sources of [financial] drain,” Berri said, referring to an estimated annual $1 billion in state subsidies to the cash-strapped company, Electricite du Liban.

Caretaker Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil, a key political aide to Berri, met Tuesday with Hariri, with talks focusing on the country’s finances and economy and the Cabinet formation impasse. Khalil did not speak to reporters after the meeting held at Hariri’s residence.

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