Lebanon News

Two formulas for post-Mikati Cabinet

The Lebanese Flag at Half Must at the Governemental Palace. (The Daily Star/Dalati Nohra/HO)

The assassination of Wissam al-Hasan was not simply an attempt on one man’s life. Killing a keeper of the country’s secrets would have taken a level of planning and intelligence strength that could only be acquired by a state – not a party or group.

The killing was meant to hit at the country as a whole, and as the turmoil in Syria continues and tension in Lebanon increases, two competing international political axes have designs on imposing their own ideas on the region. It is for this reason that Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea called the fate of Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s government simply a detail in a greater plan being prepared for Lebanon.

But forcing the government’s resignation has become a focal point for the March 14 movement. This was clear in Future parliamentary bloc head Fouad Siniora’s speech to the crowd at Martyrs Square Sunday, and it was evident as some protesters attempted to storm the Grand Serail. It should be noted that the attempt to cross into the Serail was done despite objections by some March 14 leaders.

Presidential palace sources said that the Cabinet’s resignation will bring no immediate solutions for the country, but will lead to a power vacuum and a crisis that the president does not want. Sleiman believes that despite its shortcomings, the government should remain, as it is preferable to the unknown.

Foreign diplomats have already informed those close to the government that resignation should not be considered at this time. Informed sources told The Daily Star that although Mikati said he had suspended a decision to resign at Sleiman’s request, the two did not actually have this discussion.

Rather, Mikati announced that he had spoken about resignation with Sleiman in order to throw the ball into the president’s court and create a rift between the president and March 14 forces, avoiding blame for the turbulent situation.

Sleiman continues to insist that there must be an agreement on an alternative if the government is to resign. This includes details such as specific names and positions that will make up the next Cabinet.

There have been contacts between Sleiman, Mikati, Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt, Speaker Nabih Berri and Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun about possible formulas. Energy Minister Gebran Bassil has been visiting various leaders on behalf of Aoun, informing them of his opinions.

Two formulas are being discussed. The first is a government of technocrats that is neutral, and would have as its sole responsibility the administration of the 2013 parliamentary elections. The three candidates for forming such a government are former MP Bahij Tabara, Finance Minister Mohammad Safadi, and MP Tammam Salam. Of the three, Salam is considered the most likely possibility.

The second – and more likely – formula is a repeat of the events that took place during the term of the late President Elias Sarkis, when a salvation government was formed by the leaders of all parties. In today’s terms, this would mean Cabinet would be made up of the members of the National Dialogue table. This Cabinet would also be a transition until next year’s elections.

Nothing is final until Mikati announces his resignation, but until then the other players in Lebanon’s political game will be laying the foundations for the next government.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 23, 2012, on page 3.




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