BEIRUT: Free Patriotic Movement MP Michel Aoun voiced Monday opposition to the principle of rotating ministerial portfolios in the upcoming Cabinet, in a stance that could stall the formation process days after a breakthrough paved the way for ending the 10-month political deadlock.
“We can make sacrifices but not at the expense of the people we represent and we can make concessions without eliminating ... our presence and role,” Aoun told reporters after the weekly meeting of his Change and Reform parliamentary bloc in Rabieh.
“While we reject the principle of having a single sect or party permanently occupying any ministerial post, rotation [of ministerial portfolios] is permissible [only after] a new parliamentary era and in the framework of an actual equality,” he added, referring to the general elections scheduled later this year.
Aoun’s comments come a day after President Michel Sleiman said major hurdles to the formation process, including the rotation of ministerial portfolios, had been resolved and that this week could see the birth of a new government.
One of the main demands of the Future Movement-led March 14 coalition to joining an all-embracing Cabinet was the rotation of ministerial portfolios based on sect and party.
Speaker Nabih Berri, Aoun’s ally in the March 8 coalition, has voiced support for rotating ministerial posts, saying that smaller sects should also be included in the next Cabinet lineup.
Future Movement leader MP Saad Hariri paved the way for ending the stalled Cabinet formation after saying he would be willing to take part in a government with his rivals in the Hezbollah-led March 8 in order to safeguard the country which has increasingly been drawn into the violence next door.
Hariri agreed to a 8-8-8 lineup in which the March 8 and the March 14 coalitions get eight ministers each and the remainder are allotted to the president and prime-minister designate, with neither of the major blocs enjoying veto power.
Aoun has informed Hezbollah of his opposition to rotating ministerial portfolios.
During his chat with reporters, Aoun, reading his bloc’s statement, said he was still working toward the formation of a national unity government and that he was “glad with a formula that represents everyone.”
He said he accepted the 8-8-8 formula “despite the injustice” concerning the number of ministerial posts allocated to his bloc, the second largest after Hariri’s.
“We cannot waiver on proper Christian representation either in terms of the ministerial portfolios, the number of the posts and their nature whether they are ... primary or secondary,” Aoun said.
“We cannot give up on the right of each party naming its representatives in the Cabinet because that party should be held accountable to its voters,” he added, noting that the executive branch should equally represent all parties and sects.
“We think that the prospective government can establish a new phase of dialogue and understandings with the aim of securing stability instead of strife that is threatening Lebanon's existence,” he said.
“We think that the government will pave the way for the presidential election, which should be held on time and bring a strong president who is a true representation of Christians,” Aoun added.