BEIRUT: Discussions over the ministerial statement should be held after the formation of the government, Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam said in remarks published Monday, as Speaker Nabih Berri said he expects Cabinet to be formed this week.
“According to the constitution and to the norms, the issue of the ministerial statement is to be discussed after forming the government and forming a ministerial committee to formulate the statement,” Salam told As-Safir newspaper.
The prime minister-designate also said that attempts to impose conditions on the policy statement before the formation of the new government are “unconstitutional” and that such conditions put obstacles to the deal struck between the rival parties on the new government.
“How can we set the ministerial statement prior to forming the government? Should not the forces of the next government sit together... and set the priorities of its tasks according to the circumstances the country is going through?” he said.
The dispute between the March 8 and March 14 groups over the policy statement is one of the issues delaying the formation of a new government.
Political sources told The Daily Star Sunday that although the March 14 coalition has gone back on its call for reaching an agreement on the Cabinet’s policy statement prior to forming the Cabinet, the group still insists on having a clear text demanding that all parties adhere to the Baabda Declaration and oppose the “Army, people and resistance” tripartite.
The sources said that if no agreement on the policy statement is reached once the Cabinet is formed, the government risks failing to gain a vote of confidence and thus becoming a caretaker Cabinet.
Salam also said that contacts are underway to convince the rival political factions to facilitate the Cabinet formation and agree thereafter on the policy statement.
Meanwhile, Berri told As-Safir that he expects Cabinet to be formed in a couple of days saying that contacts are ongoing over the formation of an all-embracing government.
“The Cabinet is expected to be formed this week if no unforeseen complications and surprises emerge,” Berri said.
Berri also said that the March 14 alliance's request for guarantees from the rival party regarding the government and its ministerial statement is “unjustified.”
“The most important guarantee is represented by the prime minister-designate who is supposed to be a source of comfort for anybody’s concerns since [Salam] can resign and bring down the government if he deems anything inappropriate,” the speaker said.
Both Berri and Salam hailed the recent stance by the head of the Future Movement Saad Hariri who said he is ready to share power with Hezbollah in a national coalition government to help stabilize Lebanon as it faces growing threats to its security from the war raging in Syria.
“Hariri's stance is responsible, contributes to resolving the tense atmosphere and facilitates the Cabinet formation,” Salam said.
Berri also hailed Hariri and said his standpoint is that of a leader.
“Hariri’s position, in its timing and circumstances, is only taken by a leader and not an ordinary politician,” he said.
Hariri’s remarks were a positive signal 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 was suggested by Berri and Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt.
A dispute over key ministerial portfolios is another issue that might impede the formation of a new Cabinet.
MP Michel Aoun, leader of the Free Patriotic Movement, was reported to be opposing the rotation of ministerial portfolios based on party and sect in the new Cabinet lineup because this would deprive him of two key portfolios: the Energy Ministry currently held by his son-in-law Gebran Bassil and the Telecommunications Ministry held by Nicolas Sehnaoui, who belongs to the FPM.
Aoun’s stance puts him at odds with Salam, who has called for the rotation of all ministerial portfolios among parties and sects since he was appointed in April.
It also puts Aoun on a different wavelength than Speaker Nabih Berri, who said he supports the rotation of ministerial portfolios so long as it entailed equality between sects and parties.