Sources familiar with the Cabinet formation issue reported an air of optimism, saying the latest consultations between political parties and President Michel Sleiman and Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam addressed the various formulas presented and are focusing on the 8-8-8 lineup.
The sources also expect chances for a new government will improve if March 14 receives the answers to its five questions centering on the Cabinet’s formation, the blocking third, its policy statement on the Baabda Declaration, and Sleiman and Salam’s veto powers.
The sources revealed that the attempt to remove obstacles related to the 8-8-8 lineup would focus on creating a government composed of 24 ministers. Six would be politically affiliated and equally divided between the March 8 and March 14 groups. The remaining 18 ministers would be neutral. Eight would be centrists – three belonging to Sleiman, three to Salam and two to Progressive Socialist Party head Walid Jumblatt – and the March 8 and March 14 parties would have a further five each.
The sources indicated that the president’s candidates would consist of former Minister of State Khalil Hrawi, a political adviser to Sleiman who would be made defense minister; caretaker Deputy Prime Minister Samir Moqbel, who would stay in his current post; and military adviser Abdul-Mutallab Hanawi, who would become either a minister of state or head a a public services ministry.
The Foreign Ministry will remain under the auspices of Speaker Nabih Berri. Because foreign policy in Lebanon is determined by the president and the Cabinet, March 14 agreed that the position could remain in March 8’s hands.
The Interior Ministry will be given to March 14, while Salam will choose who will head the Finance Ministry.
Two ministers will represent the PSP: caretaker Social Affairs Minister Wael Abu Faour, and either MP Akram Shehayeb or the PSP’s media official, Rami Rayyes.
Sources close to the president told The Daily Star Sleiman was awaiting the results of the government consultations, on which Salam would brief him after the premier-designate was notified of the various political groups’ positions. Regardless, the sources suggested that a government would be formed by the end of the month.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 11, 2014, on page 3.