WED 22 - 5 - 2019
Date: Dec 4, 2018
Source: The Daily Star
Lebanon: Jahilieh events should hasten formation of govt: officials
Hussein Dakroub| The Daily Star
BEIRUT: The weekend’s security incident that led to the death of a bodyguard of pro-Syrian politician Wiam Wahhab in the Chouf village of Jahilieh should serve as an incentive for the swift formation of a new government, politicians from various blocs said Monday.

This came as throngs of people, including delegations from Hezbollah, the Free Patriotic Movement and MP Talal Arslan’s Lebanese Democratic Party visited Jahilieh to offer condolences to Wahhab, the head of the Tawhid Party, for the death of Mohammad Abou Diab.

Abou Diab was fatally wounded Saturday evening when a unit of the Internal Security Forces’ Information Branch, acting on a judicial summons from the state prosecutor, attempted to bring in Wahhab from his Jahilieh home for questioning over insulting remarks he made about Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri and his late father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, in a video that circulated on social media last week.

Wahhab, an ally of the Syrian regime and Hezbollah, had ignored multiple requests to appear for questioning, following a request filed by a group of lawyers to look into the remarks he made in the video on charges of “inciting strife and threatening civil peace.”

The Jahilieh incident threatened to plunge the country into a new bout of sectarian strife amid rising tensions between Wahhab’s supporters and those of his Druze rival, Walid Joumblatt, the leader of the Progressive Socialist Party, in the Chouf district.

It also came as Lebanon has been left without a fully functioning government since the May parliamentary elections. Hariri’s attempts to form a new Cabinet have most recently been bogged down by a demand by six pro-Hezbollah Sunni MPs for representation.

“The recent [security] incidents that occurred call on us to speed up the Cabinet formation and put all files linked to political and security stability and tackling the economic and financial issues on the table, so that we can overcome the big crisis that is threatening the country and its stability and the lives and interests of the people,” caretaker Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil told a ceremony in the southern town of Khiam. Khalil, a key political aide to Speaker Nabih Berri, stressed that attaining economic, social and financial stability required “a pure political will toward launching the work of constitutional institutions, particularly the formation of a government.”

A similar view was echoed by MP Alain Aoun from the FPM’s parliamentary Strong Lebanon bloc. “The incident that happened in Jahilieh is an additional incentive to accelerate the Cabinet formation, even though the government is an urgent need that must not wait for such an incident,” Aoun told Akhbar al-Yom agency.

He added that the mediation attempt by FPM leader and caretaker Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil to resolve the last remaining obstacle over the six Sunni MPs’ demand was still on track.

Among proposals being floated to resolve the MPs’ representation problem is to name MP Adnan Traboulsi, one of the six, or an official from his Association of Islamic Charitable Projects group, also know as Al-Ahbash, as a minister in the new Cabinet who would be part of the president’s share, a political source told The Daily Star.

Visitors at Baabda Palace quoted President Aoun as saying that he is optimistic about the prospects for Cabinet formation soon.

“Efforts are being made for the birth of the new Cabinet before the [Christmas and New Year] holidays based on a serious breakthrough that has [been] made in the formation process through the adoption of a 32-member Cabinet,” the Central News Agency quoted sources close to the formation process as saying.

MP Abdel-Rahim Mrad, one of the six MPs, reiterated the demand for representation in the next government. “It is our right to be represented,” Mrad told reporters in Jahilieh after offering his condolences to Wahhab over Abou Diab’s death. He said the six did not need to “take advantage” of the tense situation in Jahilieh to advance their demand.

Hariri has refused to meet with the MPs and has rejected their demand for representation in the new Cabinet on the basis that they have not formed a parliamentary bloc.

Hezbollah renewed its support for the six MPs’ push.

“We have no special conditions for the Cabinet formation. When others were demanding to be represented, we were demanding that the independent Sunni MPs be represented,” Mahmoud Qomati, deputy head of Hezbollah’s Political Council, told reporters in Jahilieh after heading a party delegation to offer condolences to Wahhab.

Declaring that the “Axis of Resistance,” a reference to Syria, Iran and Hezbollah, has won in the region, Qomati said: “But in Lebanon we don’t deal with the logic of the defeated and winner, but with the logic of national partnership to pull Lebanon out of its political and economic crisis.”

The PSP’s parliamentary Democratic Gathering bloc, which met with the presence of Joumblatt, reiterated its call on all political parties to review their positions and resort only to the state and the law as a means to preserve citizens’ rights and civil peace.

On his Twitter account, Joumblatt offered his condolences over Abou Diab’s death and spoke of “regular coordination” between the PSP and Hezbollah “despite different viewpoints on some matters.”

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