Lebanon News

March 14 favors neutral Cabinet headed by consensus PM

President Michel Sleiman, left, meets with Deputy Parliament Speaker Farid Makari at Baabda Palace on Tuesday, April 2, 2013. (The Daily Star/Dalati Nohra)

BEIRUT: The March 14 alliance wants a neutral Cabinet headed by a consensus prime minister who represents the “pulse” of the Sunni community, Deputy Speaker Farid Makari said Tuesday, days before the launch of parliamentary consultations to nominate a prime-minister designate.

During a meeting at Baabda Palace, Makari informed President Michel Sleiman of the opposition’s initial direction ahead of this week’s parliamentary consultations.

"This direction will be crystallized in the coming days through a unified position that will be relayed to the president within the framework of the parliamentary consultations,” Makari told reporters.

“[The approach] envisages a future Cabinet that is neutral, led by a prime minister who isn't running in the elections," he said.

"[The prime minister] should be someone who is accepted by all Lebanese and at the same time represents the pulse of the Sunni community," he added.

He also relayed the coalition's insistence on holding the June 9 polls on time and "at any cost."

Binding consultations for parliamentary blocs will be launched on April 5 and 6, and the participants will be asked to nominate their preferred candidate to lead the next Cabinet.

Independent Christian figures said they would coordinate with their allies in the March 14 alliance to nominate a candidate to head a neutral government.

In a statement released following a meeting headed by MP Butros Harb, the attendees said the new Cabinet’s task should be “to draft a new electoral law as soon as possible” and hold the polls on time.

Hezbollah, however, has opposed the formation of a neutral government, voicing support for a "political" government headed by a consensus candidate.

Meanwhile, the Future parliamentary bloc said it wanted a government whose main task should be to oversee the elections and work on drafting a new electoral law.

"The next government should be one that will hold the parliamentary elections without hesitation, and focus its efforts on preparing a law that ensures justice and sound representation,” said a statement read by MP Hadi Hobeish following the bloc’s weekly meeting.

It said ministers in the new Cabinet should not also be candidates in the upcoming general elections.

The bloc also noted that the Cabinet’s ministerial statement should be based on the “Baabda Declaration,” which was agreed on by rival leaders last year to distance Lebanon from regional turmoil, and the government should pave the way for the resumption of National Dialogue.

The Progressive Socialist Party, headed by MP Walid Jumblatt, prefers a national unity government over a neutral one, the party’s Secretary-General Zafer Nasser said Tuesday.

“We think that the best choice is a national unity government where all the parties are represented given the critical phase that requires partnership,” Nasser told The Daily Star.

“This is our opinion but we are in contact with the Future Movement and its allies.”

He stressed that a clear picture had not yet developed over the form of the next Cabinet.

Although there have not been official meetings between PSP lawmakers and Hezbollah figures as part of ongoing consultations, Nasser said communication between the two parties is ongoing.

“All discussions and consultations with everyone remain in the framework of deliberations and the exchange of opinions but we haven’t reached specific results,” he said.

Meanwhile, allies in the March 8 coalition are expected to hold a meeting Wednesday following reports of a rift between Speaker Nabih Berri and MP Michel Aoun, head of the Free Patriotic Movement, over the former's alleged refusal to hold a legislative session to vote on the controversial Orthodox Gathering electoral proposal.

Separately, the French ambassador to Lebanon, Patrice Paoli, expressed hope Tuesday for the swift formation of a new Cabinet and for the elections to be held on time, according to the National News Agency.

His comments came following a meeting with Aoun.

Paoli said he exchanged views with Aoun, who he said headed a sizeable party in Lebanon.

He also praised Sleiman’s most recent speech on the need to hold the June polls on time.





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