BEIRUT: Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun has warned against forming a neutral or fait accompli Cabinet, saying such a government would play havoc with the country’s stability. In a speech during a weekend visit to the eastern city of Zahle, Aoun also held President Michel Sleiman and Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam responsible for the consequences of committing “a crime” against the country by forming a fait accompli government, which would govern in caretaker status after being appointed by the president but failing a vote of confidence in Parliament.
Aoun’s remarks come as a proposal for a neutral government is gathering steam after Salam’s attempts to set up a government of rival politicians foundered on conditions and counter-conditions set by the March 8 and March 14 camps.
“There should be no political adventures like those we are hearing today. They are talking about a fait accompli government, a technocrat Cabinet and other [kinds] of governments. How can these governments govern? These kinds of governments will lead the country to ruin,” Aoun told a dinner hosted by the FPM at a restaurant in Zahle Saturday.
Referring to a string of security incidents that rattled Lebanon recently, including the kidnapping of two Turkish pilots on the airport road, he said: “I wonder how a neutral can government face all these problems. What is the decision a neutral government can take amid the problems happening today? Who will support it and who does this government represent?”
Aoun scoffed at the idea of a Cabinet of neutral people.
“Who is a neutral person? A neutral is a person who is unconcerned with the state’s public affairs. ... How can a person rule a country without being familiar with its life and its affairs?” he asked. He also rejected the idea of a Cabinet of independent politicians.
Aoun implicitly warned against attempts to exclude Hezbollah from the next government as demanded by the March 14 coalition because of the party’s military intervention in Syria on the side of President Bashar Assad.
“Marginalization of national parties that really represent the Lebanese people is intended to foment a problem and ignite the spark for fire,” he said. “If they are really thinking of this matter, I hold those who are forming the Cabinet and the one who signs the [Cabinet] formation decree responsible for its consequences because they will be committing more than a mistake. It is a crime against the country.”
The president is responsible for signing any Cabinet formation decree.
Referring to the extension of Parliament’s mandate as well as the term of Army commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi, which he strongly opposed, Aoun said: “The country is today split and as a result of this split miracles are happening. The miracle is that all politicians were united against us several times. Each time they were united on violating the Constitution and laws.
“The divided politicians agree on violating the Constitution and disagree on the Cabinet formation, while logic says the opposite is true and that they must agree on the unity of the Constitution and the respect of the Cabinet formation process.”
The FPM leader, accompanied by his wife and the caretaker energy and culture ministers, concluded a two-day visit to Zahle Sunday by attending a Mass at the city’s St. Maroun Cathedral led by Maronite Bishop Mansour Hobeika.
However, Aoun’s remarks drew a quick response from a source concerned with the Cabinet formation efforts.
“We add our voice to Gen. Aoun’s voice in demanding that the Constitution be respected, especially its clear provisions relating to the Cabinet formation mechanism and the prime minister-designate’s prerogatives and the need to stay away from interpretations not mentioned in the Constitution,” the source said.
The source criticized Aoun for belittling the role of neutral politicians: “It is regrettable to strip the national character from nonpartisan Lebanese in this manner which constitutes injustice to the great majority of the Lebanese.”
“The neutral [politicians] which Gen. Aoun is criticizing are Lebanese citizens who have their own viewpoints on their country’s affairs. They consider that the current political parties do not reflect their aspirations for building a better future. Therefore, they stand at the same distance from the political parties,” the source said.
The source stressed that no one could deprive neutral politicians from their right to help in running the country’s affairs.
Caretaker Public Works Minister Ghazi Aridi called for forming a new Cabinet to avoid a power vacuum.
“Everyone is warning of vacuum. Everyone is criticizing vacuum. Everyone is warning of the state of disorder and insecurity. But eventually we are not working unitedly to reach a Cabinet lineup that can consecrate a minimum of understanding [among rival factions],” Aridi told a handicraft fair in the mountain town of Baysour.
Sleiman and Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt have voiced support for a neutral government as a way to break the four-month-long Cabinet stalemate.
Hezbollah and its March 8 allies have warned against a neutral Cabinet, insisting on a national unity government in which all parties are represented in proportion to their seats in Parliament.
The March 14 coalition, which has demanded a neutral, nonpartisan government, has rejected Hezbollah’s participation until it withdraws from Syria.