Despite last week’s meeting at Baabda Presidential Palace, Hariri’s effort to form a new government failed to come to fruition.
by Georgi Azar
BEIRUT: The optimism surrounding the formation of a new Cabinet in the wake of last week’s meeting between President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri fizzled out, as it became evident that the parties involved in the widescale negotiation process have yet to see eye to eye on the distribution of ministerial portfolios.
At the heart of the conflict are the Lebanese Forces and Progressive Socialist Party’s demand for a sizeable chunk of ministerial posts, which have continuously been rebuked by Aoun and his son-in-law an current Free Patriotic Movement leader Gebran Bassil.
The LF, who saw their bloc expand to 15 MPs during the recent parliamentary elections, has been pushing for a significant share of ministries including one of four key portfolios (Interior, Defense, Foreign and Finance Ministries) to rival the FPM. The FPM, with its 29 MPs however, remains the biggest Christian coalition in Parliament.
Aoun has been adamant in his refusal to grant the LF’s wishes and limit their representation despite Hariri’s commitment to an all-inclusive Cabinet. The President has also been trying to secure at least three other ministries to go alongside the FPM’s seven, including that of the deputy premier position which is currently occupied by the LF.
Another hindering block is the tug and pull taking place between the FPM and Walid Joumblatt’s PSP. The Druze leader has been strongly demanding that his party solely picks the three ministerial posts reserved for his community, leaving his Druze rival Talal Arslan out of the equation.
Arslan, who heads the Lebanese Democratic Party, aligned himself with the FPM in last month’s parliamentary campaign and has been seeking at least one of the three seats reserved for Druze.