A new government may emerge sooner rather than later, according to sources close to the process, as Arab and Western powers increase pressure on Lebanese factions to speed up the process.
To this end, Walid Jumblatt’s Progressive Socialist Party and Gen. Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement have held a series of intense meetings in an attempt to repair the relationship between the two sides.
The joint committees of both parties reportedly discussed the formation of a new government in light of positive indications from Lebanon’s international allies who have expressed their desire to see a government formed.
The leaders of these countries have made clear the need for a central government to address the economic, social and living conditions in Lebanon, to limit the security fallout from regional instability and to implement the recommendations of the international community currently meeting in New York for the United Nations General Assembly.
In light of this, the committees have been busily laying the groundwork for a meeting between Jumblatt and Aoun, which is expected to precede the formation of a government.
Ministerial sources told The Daily Star that efforts were moving quickly, and at the highest levels, to form a balanced government that would take into account the size and proportion of all parliamentary blocs. The new Cabinet will be christened a “national salvation” government as a message to those who would undermine the institutions of the Lebanese state, the sources said.
Sources close to Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam said he was frustrated by the delay, but optimistic about the negotiations.
Salam was quoted describing his designation as a “strategic” choice aimed at forming an effective working government, not a “tactical” one whose role ended at the announcement of the new cabinet.
“Stepping down is out of the question,” Tammam told the sources, indicating that it was his duty to protect Lebanon from the “fireball” bearing down on it.
He went on to criticize political factions who insisted on placing their preconditions on the Cabinet formation, saying: “The only side authorized to place conditions on the formation of a government is the prime minister-designate, with the support of the president of the republic.”
Salam pointed out that he had not announced any preconditions because he was motivated by national interest and his “conviction that all components of Lebanese society should be included [in the Cabinet formation process] in order to ensure the legitimacy of this government.”
According to the sources, the prime minister-designate welcomes signs of a political thaw between rival factions that might lead to the formation of a government soon.
“The challenges Lebanon faces are not external,” he reportedly said. “Rather, they come from interior factions that want to predetermine the composition of the government regardless of what I think.”
He vowed that he would not allow anyone to “undermine the powers of the prime minister’s office.”
“I will take the same path as those who occupied this office before me, and continue to defend it not as a sectarian position but as one dedicated to serving all citizens regardless of religion,” he said.
“I accepted the post of prime minister-designate in order to save the country from what threatened it, and because I was convinced of my ability to improve the situation by working with everyone, from the president to each and every security and governmental institution.
“When I find that my presence is counterproductive to the construction and progress of the country, then let everyone know that I will step down.”