BEIRUT: Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam headed Saturday to Baabda Palace where he will meet President Michel Sleiman and most likely announce the formation of a new government, political sources told The Daily Star.
Cabinet Secretary General Suhail Bouji also arrived at Baabda Palace and is expected to prepare the formation decrees, according to protocol.
Late-night contacts between rivals groups revived hopes for a new Cabinet after a dispute between the Hezbollah-led March 8 coalition and the Future Movement over the Interior Ministry portfolio.
The March 8 group opposed Friday the Future Movement’s nomination of retired Internal Security Forces chief Maj. Gen. Ashraf Rifi for the portfolio.
Efforts were focused on naming a more moderate Future Movement candidate for the Interior Ministry, while allotting a different ministerial post to Rifi.
A source close to the formation process said MP Nuhad Mashnouq was most likely the candidate for the Interior post.
Rifi is seen as a controversial figure by the Hezbollah-led March 8 coalition. Salam was appointed in April 2013, days after a government resignation prompted by a fall out over extending Rifi’s mandate and the subject of establishing a committee to oversee the parliamentary elections.
The Future Movement and MP Michel Aoun also reached a compromise earlier this week over the Energy Ministry portfolio. Aoun had insisted that the Energy portfolio remain in the hands of Bassil, his son-in-law.
Under the compromise, caretaker Energy Minister Gebran Bassil will be allotted the Foreign Ministry post, while Tashnag MP Arthur Nazarian will replace Bassil.
Nazarian belongs to the parliamentary Change and Reform bloc that is headed by Aoun.
The March 8 coalition, Future Movement, and MP Walid Jumblatt’s Progressive Socialist Party agreed last month on a deal to form an all-embracing Cabinet, in a bid to end months of political deadlock.
The deal is based on 8-8-8 Cabinet lineup in which eight ministers are allotted to the March 8 and March 14 coalitions each. The rest of the ministers are to be named by the president, the prime minister-designate and Jumblatt.