By Mirella Hodeib
Thursday, January 27, 2011
BEIRUT: The Future Movement will inform the prime minister-designate Thursday that it will not participate in the new Cabinet, as Najib Mikati is scheduled to kick off two-day consultations with parliamentary blocs on the shape and size of his government.
“The Future Movement will inform Mikati Thursday that it will not take part in the next Cabinet,” a source from the March 14 coalition told The Daily Star. The source said caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s Future Movement, which has the largest bloc in Parliament, will move to lead the new opposition.
Hariri’s rival Mikati was designated for the premiership by a majority of 68 MPs, the bulk of whom were from the Hezbollah-led March 8. But Mikati describes himself as a centrist without any obligations to Hezbollah.
The prime minister-designate admitted that while talks to form the next Cabinet were far from running smooth, they were not a “mission impossible.”
“Forming the Cabinet is not mission impossible especially if we are able to come up with a united and homogenous team of ministers,” he told local television channel OTV in an interview.
Mikati said if they agree to take part in his cabinet, he did not oppose allocating the Future Movement and their allies in the March 14 coalition one–third-plus-one of the seats, which would grant them veto power.
“I support the slogan of ‘no victor no vanquished,’” Mikati said.
Future Movement supporters responded to their party’s call for a “day of rage” Tuesday, hitting streets to express their backing to the caretaker prime minister against Mikati, who they describe as Hezbollah’s candidate. The Future Movement and its allies in the March 14 have called for daily sit-ins in downtown Beirut’s Martyrs Square against what they described the “increasing power of Hezbollah.”
Tension between Hezbollah and the Future Movement mounted over the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which is probing the 2005 assassination of the movement’s founder former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The indictment issued by the U.N.-backed STL, which has so far been kept secret pending review from the tribunal’s pre-trial judge, is widely expected to point the finger at Hezbollah members. Hezbollah slammed the court an Israeli tool to stir strife in Lebanon and launched a campaign to scrap the STL. A March 8 source said there was a good chance that the party would not directly take part in the Mikati-led Cabinet. The source ruled out the possibility of Mikati forming an expanded 30-member cabinet.
“Mikati likes to work with small groups,” said the source, adding that the size of the next cabinet would likely range between 16 to 24 members.
Mikati told OTV that options were still open as to whether the cabinet would be made up exclusively of technocrats, or a mix between technocrats and politicians. He added Hezbollah would join a government in which political groups are represented.
Mikati paid protocol visits to five of his predecessors Wednesday, including Hariri.
He also telephoned former Prime Minister Salim Hoss, currently in Saudi Arabia for medical treatment.
The meeting with Hariri lasted less than three minutes, the opportunity for photographers to take shots of the two politicians who made no statements afterward.
Mikati said following talks with former Prime Minister Omar Karami that he gathered tips from his predecessors about the best means to form a government.
Karami commented that crowds that took to the streets of Tripoli in support of Hariri Tuesday did not hail from the northern coastal city. “Unfortunately, the foolish protests harmed the Future Movement terribly,” he said.
The former premier said that in the event the Future Movement refuses to join the Mikati-led government, he advised the prime-minister designate to form a cabinet combining politicians and technocrats.
Following talks with Mikati, Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun, who headed one of the country’s two rival Cabinets between 1988 and1990, said the new government’s main priority should be to bolster national unity and adopt policies that engage all the Lebanese.
Aoun denied that the March 8 coalition was working to weaken Lebanon’s Sunni community.
“We are not against Sunnis, we are against a certain political practice that has been proven wrong,” he said in reference to the Future Movement.
Former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, who heads the Future Movement parliamentary bloc, said that despite claiming the contrary, Mikati remained Hezbollah’s candidate for the premiership until further notice.
“He is currently Hezbollah’s candidate and only his performance will determine whether or not he is a centrist,” said Siniora.