BEIRUT: Talks of a compromise over the Energy Ministry portfolio has revived hopes of breaking the 10-month political deadlock over the formation of a new Cabinet, a March 8 coalition source told The Daily Star Thursday.
Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam has proposed allotting the Energy Ministry portfolio to MP Michel Aoun’s Change and Reform parliamentary bloc to ensure the lawmaker’s participation in an all-embracing government, the source said.
“[Former] General Aoun’s party agreed to the proposal,” the source said.
Aoun’s agreement marks an end to a major hurdle holding back the formation of the government. The source, however, noted that other items, such as the selection of a candidate for the Interior Ministry, needed to be resolved before Salam could move ahead with forming his Cabinet.
Aoun has repeatedly rejected the principle of rotating ministerial portfolios, arguing that it is unconstitutional and aims solely at stripping his party of the Energy Ministry which is currently held by his son-in-law Gebran Bassil.
The portfolio rotation was part of a political deal between Hezbollah and the Future Movement to form a new Cabinet based on the 8-8-8 lineup. The agreement was mediated by Speaker Nabih Berri and Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt.
Hezbollah failed to convince Aoun to change his position on the rotation policy and urged Salam to soften his stance to help avoid resignations from any future Cabinet.
According to the source, Salam’s proposal stipulates the Energy Ministry post be given to a Change and Reform bloc figure other than Bassil, allowing Aoun to retain the post.
The source said the Change and Reform bloc would likely name Tashnag MP Arthur Nazarian as their candidate for replacing Bassil and energy minister. The bloc would also likely name Bassil as acting energy minister, the source added.
A source close to the Cabinet formation process said Salam was still waiting for the Future Movement to name a candidate for the Interior Ministry.
Meanwhile, President Michel Sleiman said he hoped political leaders would recognize the dangerous phase the country is passing which he said should stimulate boosted cooperation toward the formation process.
He also said that a new Cabinet would revive the executive branch of government and serve as a political umbrella for Lebanon and the Lebanese.
Sleiman's remarks came during a meeting he chaired with several high-ranking security and judicial officials.
Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati, caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel and caretaker Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi attended the meeting at Baabda Palace.
The meeting discussed the Lebanese Army's recent discovery of a terrorist cells and preventing terrorist attacks including car bombings and suicide attacks.
The attendees agreed on the need to maintain cooperation among security agencies including the exchange of intelligence.