BEIRUT: No imminent breakthrough is expected in the four-month-long Cabinet deadlock given the conditions and counterconditions set by the rival political parties over the makeup and role of the new government, sources at Baabda Palace said Tuesday.
“Despite growing calls in the past few days for the quick formation of a salvation government to deal with the deteriorating security situation, the parties are not facilitating the birth of a new Cabinet,” a Baabda source told The Daily Star.
“Therefore, no solution is in sight to the Cabinet crisis,” the source said.
His remarks came shortly after Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam met President Michel Sleiman to brief him on his consultations and contacts aimed at forming a new Cabinet.
Salam did not speak to reporters after the meeting at Baabda Palace. But he, Sleiman and leaders on both sides of the political divide have called for a swift formation of a new Cabinet to grapple with security threats following last week’s car bombing in Beirut’s southern suburbs that killed 30 people and wounded over 300 in the deadliest attack since the 1975-90 Civil War.
The gloomy Cabinet outlook came a day after a delegation from the Progressive Socialist Party returned from a visit to Saudi Arabia, apparently without making any headway in the Cabinet stalemate.
Caretaker Social Affairs Minister Wael Abu Faour and Taymour Jumblatt, son of PSP leader MP Walid Jumblatt, had met with Saudi officials, including Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan, to discuss ways of breaking the Cabinet deadlock.
But sources close to the PSP said the visit had failed to persuade Saudi officials of “Jumblatt’s viewpoint on the need to form a national unity Cabinet with the participation of all political parties, including Hezbollah.”
The parliamentary Future bloc reiterated its call for a quick formation of a new Cabinet to deal with the deteriorating security and socio-economic conditions in the country.
“The bloc asks until when will the issue of the Cabinet formation be exposed to escalating blackmail which leads to the crippling of constitutional institutions, undermining the state’s foundations and infringing on the constitutional prerogatives vested with the president and the prime minister-designate?” the bloc said in a statement issued after its weekly meeting chaired by former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.
For his part, Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun accused Salam of leniency toward those allegedly obstructing Cabinet’s formation.
“We came to know that some parties are obstructing the Cabinet formation and that the prime minister-[designate] is being receptive [toward these parties]. Therefore, we are facing a big scandal,” Aoun told reporters after chairing a weekly meeting of his parliamentary Change and Reform bloc at his residence in Rabieh, north of Beirut.
The March 14 coalition, which has called for the formation of a neutral Cabinet, has also rejected Hezbollah’s participation in the Cabinet before it withdraws its fighters from Syria.
Hezbollah and its March 8 allies have warned against forming a neutral or fait accompli Cabinet. They demand a national unity government in which all political parties are represented in proportion to the size of their representation in Parliament.
Salam has voiced his support for a nonpartisan government to deal with the country’s worsening socio-economic conditions.
Sleiman has indicated that if a government embracing all the political parties could not be formed, the alternative is a neutral Cabinet.
With no signs of an early government formation in the offing, the caretaker Cabinet is preparing to hold sessions at the beginning of next month, according to sources at the Grand Serail.
“The current logjam in the country will be broken in early September by calling for a Cabinet session that could be followed by other sessions,” a source told The Daily Star.
The source ruled out the revival of the Cabinet because caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati was unlikely to retract his resignation.
According to the source, Mikati informed Jumblatt during his meeting with him last Monday at the latter’s residence in Clemenceau of his decision to resume the Cabinet sessions if no new government was formed.
Sources familiar with the Cabinet formation process said no serious breakthrough had been made in the deadlock due to several factors, chief among them the open conflict between the Future Movement and Hezbollah which has worsened following the bombing in the southern suburbs.