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Lebanon News

Safadi biding his time in bid for the Lebanese premiership

  • This file picture shows Finance Minister Mohammad Safadi arriving at the Parliament in Beirut. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

Finance Minister Mohammad Safadi is cautiously following the political developments in Lebanon and Syria and looking for the right moment to further distance himself from the government of Prime Minister Najib Mikati, according to sources.

Safadi’s recent announcement that he would not seek re-election as an MP in the upcoming 2013 parliamentary elections is also related to the conflict of interest he shares with Mikati over the issue of approving a new draft to raise the salaries for the public sector and teachers in the country.

While Mikati is seeking to meet the demands of public sector employees and teachers, Safadi believes the measure would negatively affect his political career and draw widespread criticism of his ministry if the government approves a draft law to raise wages.

To raise the salaries, the finance minister anticipates a sharp increase in taxes on consumption goods, a move that would drive the anger of investors and consumers in Lebanon against Safadi’s ministry.

Sources who have been following the recent statements made by Safadi say that his announcement that he is no longer willing to run for re-election is one of a series of escalatory steps against the government’s policies.

“What if this announcement is followed by open opposition against Mikati in administrative appointments, salary scales and oil? This escalation could lead to his resignation from the Cabinet,” the sources add.

According to the sources, Safadi’s past experience in forging pragmatic political alliances means his announcement before the parliamentary elections comes as “no surprise.”

“He is vigilant in following the local and regional developments and since these show an uncertain future in the region, he has left the door open to maneuver,” the sources say.

Speaking to reporters following a Cabinet meeting last month, Safadi said that he had no intention to run for a parliamentary seat. But he refused to say whether he would abandon national politics amid rumors that his health has deteriorated over recent months.

Safadi, a Tripoli MP, ran on the Future Movement ticket in 2009 after he and Mikati built a strong electoral alliance against the March 8 coalition.

Given the instability in the region and the continuing demands from March 14 that Mikati resign and allow a national unity government to oversee next year’s parliamentary elections, Safadi would become a favored candidate by both regional and international players, sources add.

In 2005, Mikati was nominated to form an emergency Cabinet and hold national elections in the wake of the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Sources say that Safadi sees that his fate in 2013 might echo that of Mikati’s in 2005.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 11, 2012, on page 3.
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