BEIRUT

Lubnan

The new Cabinet’s possible achievements

File - Newly-formed Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam speaks to the media at the presidential palace in Baabda, east of Beirut, Lebanon, Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

Prime Minister Tammam Salam’s government is set to begin exercising its full power this coming Thursday after receiving a vote of confidence from Parliament, regardless of who emerges victorious concerning the “resistance” clause drafted in its ministerial statement.

Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri has said that the tripartite “Army, people, resistance” formula is “gone forever,” while Hezbollah perceives that resistance has become one of Lebanon’s national constants that cannot be bypassed or canceled.

It has become apparent that were it not for foreign pressure on the various political powers, the ministerial statement would not have been drafted.

Political sources who have been following up on the government’s formation and the ministerial statement confirmed that this government was the result of the efforts of states that want stability in Lebanon as they await the latest developments in Syria and the consequences for Lebanon.

March 8 and March 14 ministers do not believe that the Kataeb Party’s objection to the policy statement and its threat of resignation will stop the Cabinet from receiving a vote of confidence from Parliament in order to begin governing the country.

In addition to the Syrian refugee crisis and managing the pledges made by the international community to help alleviate the burden, the ministers say that the national unity government’s first administrative challenge is appointing a vice governor to the Central Bank and renewing the current members’ terms, as well as addressing the pressing socio-economic files and, of course, following up on security issues.

The ministers are not expecting altercations within the Cabinet, that is unless President Michel Sleiman wants to be involved in the appointment of positions, particularly those belonging to the Maronite sect.

This remains a possibility, however, in light of the fact that the president had been unable to appoint a number of people under former Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s government because of the Maronite sect’s lack of majority and due to the conflict between Sleiman and the head of the Change and Reform bloc, Michel Aoun.

But ministerial sources within the March 8 group believe that, unlike in past years, there will be coordination between Aoun’s and the Future Movement’s ministers concerning most of the files during this particular phase and within this Cabinet, making it difficult for Sleiman to appoint employees who do not get the approval of the Change and Reform bloc.

Parliamentary sources did not rule out the discussion of forming a new electoral law – especially given the confirmed existence of an agreement between Aoun and Hariri concerning a number of political issues – and said that this Cabinet would reinvigorate Parliament, which has failed to convene for approximately 10 months.

These sources say that any controversial files that need to be followed up on by the current government will be done by Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt’s ministers if Sleiman decides to side with the March 14 ministers.

These same sources confirmed that the presidential election would be a key subject for the Cabinet. They pointed out that any conflict on the subject would at this point inevitably lead to the postponement of the election, which must occur before May 25.

The sources said the current Cabinet would take over the president’s duties if the elections didn’t occur on time and a vacuum in the presidency occurred.

If it came to this, some decrees would need to be signed by two-thirds of the ministers in order to pass, while other files would simply need the approval of the majority in order to be adopted.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 17, 2014, on page 2.

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Summary

This remains a possibility, however, in light of the fact that the president had been unable to appoint a number of people under former Prime Minister Najib Mikati's government because of the Maronite sect's lack of majority and due to the conflict between Sleiman and the head of the Change and Reform bloc, Michel Aoun.

These sources say that any controversial files that need to be followed up on by the current government will be done by Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt's ministers if Sleiman decides to side with the March 14 ministers.

These same sources confirmed that the presidential election would be a key subject for the Cabinet.


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