BEIRUT

Lebanon News

Christian ministers not planning to boycott Cabinet session

Prime Minister Tammam Salam, center, heads a Cabinet session at the Grand Serail in Beirut, Friday, May 16, 2014. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)

BEIRUT: Christian ministers are set to attend Friday's Cabinet session despite the presidential void, while calling for a larger role in the government’s decision-making.

“We do not have a problem with attending Cabinet’s sessions, this does not go against the Constitution,” Labor Minister Sejaan Azzi, affiliated with the Kataeb Party, told The Daily Star. “We just believe we should now cooperate together as ministers to decide what issues to address in the government’s future meetings."

Azzi added that Cabinet should also avoid making exceptional decisions and limit its activity to running the country’s and citizens’ affairs.

“I am not saying we should act as a caretaker Cabinet, it is not the case of course; I am just saying we should avoid major decisions so that we do not give the impression that the country is doing OK in the absence of a president,” he said.

“That’s just out of respect to the National Pact,” the minister said, in reference to the unwritten 1943 agreement that laid the foundation of Lebanon as a multi-confessional state and governs the political dynamics of the country to this day.

Prime Minister Tammam Salam is set to chair the Cabinet session with 25 items on its agenda in the Grand Serail at 4 p.m Friday. The session will be the first since Lebanon plunged into a presidential void with the end of former President Michel Sleiman's term on May 25.

Political sources told The Daily Star that the session was a test to determine whether the Cabinet’s activity would be affected by the presidential void.

The ministers are set to express their political views on the government’s prerogatives in light of political void in the country and whether its activity should be limited to urgent files or expanded, the sources said.

Lacking a president, the Constitution tasks the Cabinet with exercising the presidency's authority.

The presidential void has already led Christian lawmakers and other MPs to boycott Parliament, arguing that it cannot legislate in light of a void.

According to the sources, ministers from MP Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement are asking that Salam agrees on the agenda with the ministers prior to the session.

They argue that the prime minister normally discusses the agenda with the president, and lacking a head of state, he should agree on the items to be addressed in Cabinet’s future sessions with the ministers.

Salam, however, opposes the suggestion, the sources said.

 

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Summary

Christian ministers are set to attend Friday's Cabinet session despite the presidential void, while calling for a larger role in the government's decision-making.

The session will be the first since Lebanon plunged into a presidential void with the end of former President Michel Sleiman's term on May 25 .

Political sources told The Daily Star that the session was a test to determine whether the Cabinet's activity would be affected by the presidential void.

Lacking a president, the Constitution tasks the Cabinet with exercising the presidency's authority.


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