BEIRUT: The Future Movement announced its intention to stand firm Friday night on the concept of rotating ministerial portfolios in a new Cabinet in what appeared to be a response to MP Michel Aoun’s insistence on retaining the Energy and Telecoms ministries to his bloc.
The 10-month-old Cabinet crisis continues, as Aoun continues to oppose the compromise agreed upon by all other parties to rotate ministerial portfolios among sects and parties. He also opposes the all-embracing 8-8-8 Cabinet supported by his March 8 allies, Jumblatt and Future.
“The Cabinet formation process is at a standstill. There is no basis to talk with Gen. Aoun because he rejects the ministerial rotation,” a source close to Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam told The Daily Star. “However, mediators are still working to break the deadlock.”
MP Ammar Houri said the Future Movement and its March 14 allies adhered to the principle of rotating ministerial portfolios in line with the 8-8-8 Cabinet lineup agreement.
“Our position has not changed on the rotation of ministerial portfolios according to the 8-8-8 Cabinet agreement,” Houri from the parliamentary Future bloc told The Daily Star.
In a statement issued following its weekly meeting, the Future bloc renewed its call for the formation of a Cabinet, affirming its commitment to a comprehensive rotation of ministerial portfolios. “The formation of a new Cabinet has become essential according to the bases outlined by the bloc, including a rejection of a blocking third [veto power] ... in addition to adherence to the implementation of the principle of a comprehensive and permanent rotation of [ministerial] portfolios,” it said.
The bloc’s statement comes a day after caretaker Energy Minister Gebran Bassil said the Free Patriotic Movement led by Aoun was firm on retaining the Energy and Telecoms ministries, in a clear rejection of rotating ministerial portfolios.
For his part, Aoun blamed Salam for the failure to form a new Cabinet and called on him to step aside.
“If Salam does not form a Cabinet, he must step down. He bears responsibility for the failure to form a Cabinet,” Aoun said in an interview with the Lebanon-based Al-Mayadeen television channel Friday night.
He warned against forming a fait accompli government, saying such a government would be unconstitutional and would not win a vote of confidence from Parliament.
Aoun contends that the principle of rotating ministerial portfolios aims only at stripping his bloc of the Energy Ministry which Bassil considers as a “guarantee” for the Christians.
Hezbollah denied it was interceding with Aoun, its key Christian ally, to make him budge on ministerial rotation. “We are not mediators and we are not undertaking any mediation effort. The premier-designate must take steps toward Gen. Aoun to eliminate the obstacles impeding the Cabinet’s formation,” Hezbollah’s caretaker Minister of State for Administrative Reform Mohammad Fneish told The Daily Star.
Asked whether Hezbollah backed Aoun’s refusal to budge on the Energy Ministry, Fneish said: “It’s Gen. Aoun’s right to demand portfolios that are commensurate with the size of his parliamentary bloc.”