Lebanon News

Aoun opposes rotation of ministerial portfolios

File - FPM leader Michel Aoun speaks during a press conference in Rabieh, Friday, July 26, 2013. (The Daily Star/Charbel Nakhoul, HO)

BEIRUT: Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun informed Hezbollah Saturday of his opposition to rotating ministerial portfolios based on party and sect in the upcoming Cabinet lineup, a source in the party told The Daily Star.

The lawmaker told his allies in the resistance group that he opposed the principle of rotating ministerial portfolios, during discussions between the two parties on the latest developments in the Cabinet formation process, the FPM source said.

Speaker Nabih Berri said earlier this week he supported the March 14 coalition's demand to rotate ministerial portfolios so long as it entailed equality between sects and parties.

Aoun’s stance, however, would have little impact on the Cabinet formation process as Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam and President Michel Sleiman are ready to form a government without the FPM, the Lebanese Forces or the Kataeb party, political sources told The Daily Star.

The Future Movement has failed to convince its Christian political allies, the Lebanese Forces and the Kataeb Party, to take part in an all-embracing Cabinet with Hezbollah, the sources said.

The LF and Kataeb have said that they would not join a government they believed provided cover for Hezbollah’s military involvement in Syria.

Hezbollah is expected to step up efforts in an attempt to soften Aoun’s stance to accept the portfolio rotation as the resistance group remains optimistic that the issue will be resolved in the next 48 hours, the sources who are close to the formation process added.

Aoun, who heads the second largest bloc in Parliament after former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s Future parliamentary bloc, has always insisted on allocating the Energy Ministry to his son-in-law Gebran Bassil who currently holds the post.

Bassil was named twice as energy minister: in Hariri’s 2010 national unity Cabinet and caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s 2011 government.

Aoun is willing to give up the Energy Ministry portfolio on condition that the Finance Ministry is allocated to his party, the sources said.

The political sources also added that the portfolio rotation was one of the few unresolved issues stalling the formation process particularly that the Future Movement agreed to postpone discussion on the Cabinet's ministerial statement until after its formation.

Meanwhile, Bassil said Hariri's remarks on his readiness to join a Cabinet with Hezbollah could pave the way for national understandings in the country.

“We are in need for a national understanding between us and the Future Movement, between the Future Movement and Hezbollah. Such understandings complete one another and do not isolate anybody,” Bassil said in his speech on the occasion of laying the foundation for a new power plant in Beirut’s southern suburbs.

"Hariri's comments could pave the way for building such an understanding," he added.

In an interview with Reuters Friday, Hariri said he was ready to share power with Hezbollah in a coalition government to help stabilize Lebanon as it faces growing threats to its security from the war raging in Syria.

The Lebanese leader’s remarks are expected to seal a political deal on an all-embracing Cabinet based on 8-8-8 lineup which would break the 10-month government deadlock.

The deal, suggested by the speaker and Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt, will most likely involve Hariri’s Future Movement, the Hezbollah-led March 8 alliance and Jumblatt's bloc.

“We will not be able to build a state and [enforce] the rule of law if we don't recognize that the state is bigger than everyone, bigger than [Hezbollah Secretary-General] Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah and Michel Aoun,” Bassil said.



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