BEIRUT: Caretaker Energy Minister Gebran Bassil stood firm Sunday on his party’s opposition to rotating ministerial portfolios based on party and sect in the next Cabinet, arguing that it would deprive Christians in Lebanon from heading one of the country’s primary ministries.
During a televised news conference, Bassil also said the Energy Ministry should be entrusted to Christians given that it restored their role and ensured their presence in the country.
“We should reduce the difficulties in forming a new Cabinet such as the agreement to postpone discussion on the government’s policy statement rather than adding more obstacles such as the rotation of ministerial portfolios,” Bassil said.
“The principle of rotating ministerial portfolios is a sound policy if it is adopted by consensus and consultations ... [and] at the beginning of a new Parliament or presidential term,” he added.
The Future Movement has said that one of its conditions to joining a new government with Hezbollah is the rotation of ministerial portfolios based on party and sect.
Hezbollah has so far failed to convince its ally former Gen. Michel Aoun, who heads the Free Patriotic Movement, into compromising over the matter.
Bassil, Aoun’s son-in-law, argued that the policy of rotating ministerial portfolios in a government with a short life would be deleterious to the work of sate institutions and ministries in the country.
He also doubted the intentions of the Future Movement, which heads the March 14 coalition, claiming there were attempts to exclude Christians under the guise of rotating ministerial portfolios.
“If there were good intensions, the rotation would have been based on consensus and included all ministerial posts but the intentions aim at excluding not only a person or a political movement but also an entire sect,” he said.
He also spoke about an agreement between Hezbollah and the Future Movement to form a new government, saying any compromise should not be at the expense of Christians.
Bassil also said the rotation of posts in Cabinet targeted the FPM’s achievements at the Energy Ministry which he said would reflect negatively on the entire oil sector.
The Energy Ministry, Bassil argued, was the guarantor of security and financial stability in Lebanon.
“It is strategic for Lebanon and Christians because it entails international relations stolen from the Christians 25 years ago. It also includes a balanced development that was absent from Christian [areas] for 25 years,” Bassil added.
“Therefore, it is a primary ministry par excellence and should not be a target of exclusion and it is the right of this sect [Christians] to be trusted with Lebanon's oil for an interim period,” he added.
Bassil said Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam was allocating ministries in a manner that addressed the needs and concerns of certain sects, excluding Christians.
“Is it acceptable to allocate the Interior Ministry to a sect in order to reassure it, allocate the Finance Ministry to a specific sect to compensate for it or allocate the Defense Ministry to [a party] to protect a grant for the Army?” he asked, referring to a Saudi grant to the military.
“The issue is now bigger than forming a government but it is concerned with constitutionality and trust, which if breached would require not only a new social contract but a whole new nation,” he said.
"Deviating from the National Covenant will lead to Sunni-Shiite strife and a conflict between Muslims and Christians in the events Muslims fail to correct this deviation,” Bassil said.
He also accused Salam of making unilateral decisions, which he said were unconstitutional.
“Consensus is at the heart of the Taef Accord which also stipulated fairness and equality ... The Constitution also stipulates that the absence of sectarian balance can [legally] force the collapse of the government,” he said.
“The prime minister-designate is not the one in charge with forming [a Cabinet] and cannot impose or threaten a certain reality,” he said.