WED 14 - 11 - 2018
 
Date: Nov 9, 2018
Source: The Daily Star
Hezbollah criticizes Hariri over Sunni MPs representation
‘Independent’ Sunnis head to Baabda
Timour Azhari| The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Six so-called “independent” Sunni MPs will meet with President Michel Aoun Friday, raising hopes that a solution to the latest obstacle in the long-standing government formation crisis is imminent, a source at Baabda Palace told The Daily Star.

“We expect them to say they are leaving the issue up to the president and the prime minister-designate, and will go with whatever they decide,” the source said, adding that they were hopeful a government would be formed before Nov. 22, Lebanon’s Independence Day.

Premier-designate Saad Hariri has refused to have one of the six take a ministry from his share, while Aoun has previously said the MPs’ demands were not reasonable as that they do not comprise a unified political bloc.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah-affiliated caretaker Youth and Sports Minister Mohammad Fneish said he had no information on any impending solution to the issue. He insisted that his party’s staunch support for the demands of the Sunni MPs was “not about breaking” Hariri.

“This kind of talk attempts to destroy the positive atmosphere” that exists between Hezbollah and Hariri, Fneish told The Daily Star. “There is no breaking of heads.”

He said Hezbollah insists on the inclusion of the “independent” Sunni MPs in the new Cabinet because without them, the party claims there will not be a national unity government comprising all the major political forces the type of government Hariri has said he would form.

A national unity government appeared ready to be announced late last month after the fall of what was thought to be the last obstacle: the Lebanese Forces’ representation. But shortly after, the six “independent” MPs, of which three belong to various parliamentary blocs, insisted on their demands as Hezbollah, their major ally, stood beside them.

The six MPs include Walid Sukkarieh, a member of Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc; Qassem Hashem, a member of the Amal Movement’s political bloc, and Jihad al-Samad, a member of the Azm bloc. The others, Faisal Karami, Adnan Traboulsi and Abdel-Rahim Mrad, have not formed a coherent bloc.

“This isn’t the issue,” Fneish said, in reference to the fact that the six MPs aren’t part of a single bloc. “Together with the other [four Sunni MPs outside of Hariri’s Future bloc] they represent 35 to 40 percent of the Sunni vote.” He added that neither Christians, Shiites, nor Druze were set to be represented by a single party in the next government. “So why are we seeing this insistence with the Sunnis?”

He denied that Hezbollah was now effectively the only party holding up Cabinet formation. “This is not true. From the beginning we took the decision, as allies, to support these MPs. It’s not us [seeking to give] them representation, it’s the elections that did it’s the people.”

But with Aoun, Hariri and Hezbollah all as of yet refusing to budge on the issue, it is unclear where a solution could come from.

In a sign of the grave nature of the issue, there has apparently been little attempt at mediation by the country’s political heavyweights.

MP Ali Bazzi from Speaker Nabih Berri’s parliamentary bloc said the speaker has not been trying to mediate, and Berri has said repeatedly that the issue requires “prayers.”

Deputy Speaker Elie Ferzli called on Free Patriotic Movement leader and caretaker Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil to turn his hand to the matter.

“I am making a personal appeal ... to Minister Gebran Bassil to ... directly contribute to resolving the obstacles of government formation,” Ferzli was quoted as saying after a meeting with Berri. Ferzli is part of the Strong Lebanon parliamentary bloc that is headed by Bassil.

In a potential foreign intervention on the Cabinet front, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said his country was prepared to undertake “all necessary contacts” in order to move toward the formation of a government, the state-run National News Agency reported.

Bogdanov was quoted as making the comments during a meeting in Moscow with MP Teymour Joumblatt, the head of the Progressive Socialist Party’s political bloc. Accompanying Joumblatt was Wael Abu Faour, a top aide to Teymour’s father Walid, who heads the PSP. Abu Faour told local news channel LBCI Thursday evening that an expected Russian initiative on the Cabinet front “may move the stagnation.”

But weakening the possibility of a Cabinet being formed soon is the fact that Hariri himself has been in France for nearly a week, and is not expected to return to Beirut before attending the Paris Peace Forum, which will take place Nov. 11-13.

Caretaker Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk, a member of the Future Bloc, said the premier-designate had remained in France because “there’s no need for daily talks at this stage, but he will be back within days.” Machnouk tried to downplay the possibility of Hariri accepting failure in the formation process. “He will not [step down],” Machnouk said Thursday after a meeting with Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdel-Latif Derian at Dar al-Fatwa.

Prior to the meeting, the religious leader received the Sunni MPs.

According to a statement from Dar al-Fatwa, its “doors are open to all Lebanese parties.” The top Sunni authority in the country called for solutions to be found to the remaining government formation obstacles and for “Lebanon’s interests to be considered above all else.”

Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah is set to deliver a speech Saturday to mark Hezbollah’s “Martyr Day.”

Hezbollah criticizes Hariri over Sunni MPs representation

BEIRUT: Hezbollah criticized Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri Thursday for “refusing” the representation of the so-called independent Sunni MPs in the new Cabinet.

“Our commitment to supporting the right and demand of the independent Sunni MPs in their participation in government is a moral and political commitment. We see no justification for not responding to this right and demand,” read a statement from the group’s Loyalty to the Resistance bloc after its weekly meeting.

Hezbollah said that denying the “independent” Sunni MPs representation “doesn’t serve the national interest or the work of the government.”

The statement added: “The representation of independent Sunnis is a responsibility that falls on the prime minister-designate, and the influential [sides] should cooperate to make this happen.”

A group of six Sunni MPs outside of Hariri’s Future Movement have demanded a seat in Cabinet. Though they deem themselves independent, most are members of other blocs, notably the Amal Movement and Hezbollah.

Hezbollah’s leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah is expected to double down on his party’s insistence on the representation of these MPs in a speech Saturday.

Lebanon has been without a government for over five months with no breakthrough in sight, after Hezbollah refused to hand over its names for ministers until an “independent” Sunni MP was named minister.

The main obstacles prior to the demands of the Sunni MPs were the issue of Christian representation between the Free Patriotic Movement and the Lebanese Forces, as well as the matter of Druze representation. Both have been resolved, with Hezbollah now blocking Cabinet formation.

Ferzli calls on Bassil to facilitate govt formation

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s deputy speaker Thursday called on Free Patriotic Movement leader Gebran Bassil to help facilitate the formation of a new government.

“I am making a personal appeal ... to Minister Gebran Bassil to ... directly contribute to resolving the obstacles of government formation,” Deputy Speaker Elie Ferzli was quoted as saying after meeting Speaker Nabih Berri.

Ferzli asked Bassil to help “put the country on the path that it needs to be on,” a statement from Berri’s office said.

Ferzli is part of the Strong Lebanon parliamentary bloc that is headed by Bassil, who is also caretaker foreign minister.

Lebanon has been without a government for over five months with no breakthrough in sight, after Hezbollah refused to hand over its names for ministers until a so-called independent Sunni MP was named a minister.

A group of six Sunni MPs outside of Hariri’s Future Movement have demanded a seat in Cabinet. Though they deem themselves independent, most are members of other blocs, notably the Amal Movement and Hezbollah.

The main obstacles prior to the demands of the Sunni MPs were the issue of Christian representation between the FPM and the Lebanese Forces, as well as the matter of Druze representation. Both have been resolved, with Hezbollah now blocking Cabinet formation.

Hariri will not step down, will form govt: Machnouk

BEIRUT: Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri will not step down and will form a new government, caretaker Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk said Thursday, playing down fears that the latest hurdle to Cabinet formation was insurmountable.

“He will not [step down]. The independent Sunni MPs [demanding representation in Cabinet] took the wrong path ... which [doesn’t allow] any of them to be named minister,” Machnouk told reporters after a meeting with Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdel-Latif Derian at Dar al-Fatwa.

He was referring to the manner in which six Sunni MPs outside Hariri’s Future Movement have sought a minister in the next Cabinet through support from Hezbollah, the premier-designate’s rival. Their demand is the last remaining hurdle to the formation.

The last-minute snag has stalled Cabinet formation, after a national unity government embracing all the major political parties was all but ready late last month after the issue of the Lebanese Forces’ representation was resolved.

Hariri has been in France for nearly a week, and Machnouk, a member of Future, said the premier-designate was there because “there’s no need for daily talks at this stage, but he will be back within days.”

Prior to Derian’s meeting with Machnouk, the religious leader received the “independent” Sunni MPs. According to a statement from Dar al-Fatwa, “its doors are open to all Lebanese parties.” The religious body called for obstacles to be removed in the face of government formation and for “Lebanon’s interests to be considered above all else.”


 
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