Public sector appointments will return to the Cabinet’s agenda next week, after President Michel Sleiman returns to the country.
The Civil Service Council has carried out several rounds of interviews in the past few weeks, and this will put all the more pressure on ministers to deal with vacant positions, particularly administrative and judicial.
Ministerial sources attribute delays in appointments to disputes between political parties, especially Christian groups. Shiite groups have agreed on names for the head of the Customs Department and for members of the committee that will administer the oil sector: Hezbollah and the Amal Movement settled their differences in a series of meetings.
Prime Minister Najib Mikati and the Future Movement have decided on the Sunni’s favored list.
But Christian parties are still bickering. The Free Patriotic Movement has confronted Sleiman in Cabinet on the subject, claiming it represents Lebanon’s Christians and thus has the right to choose Christian appointees. Sleiman, however, believes that as president he has priority in choosing who will join the public sector.
Christian disputes include administrative, judicial and diplomatic positions, although Foreign Affairs Minister Adnan Mansour has said that he has a list of diplomatic appointees ready for Cabinet.
The March 14 coalition has called for distancing the public sector from political fighting, suggesting that a merit system should be adopted in the selection of all posts. The coalition argues that March 8 is attempting to put individuals in place who will serve its agenda in the years to come.
With parliamentary polls on the horizon, the appointments stalemate could have negative repercussions on the country. Sleiman and Mikati are attempting to move ahead with appointments, ignoring Cabinet opposition: They have asked the Civil Service Council to speed up its work on finalizing those lists of names that have been agreed on, with the coordination of Minister of State for Administrative Development Mohammad Fneish.
The council is also readying for interviews with potential governors. It is working with Interior Minister Marwan Charbel on this task, given the importance of the governors in administrating elections.
Judicial appointments may be the greatest challenge. Ministerial sources say that although the Higher Judicial Council has chosen 10 judges to add to its ranks, members of the government refuse to discuss their draft because it does not address the key spots: the head and deputy head of the council.