Lebanon News

Hezbollah: Nonpolitical government unrealistic

Hezbollah's deputy leader Sheikh Naim Qassem speaks in front of students at the LU in Hadath, Lebanon, Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2012. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: Efforts to form a new government marked time Friday as Hezbollah reiterated that a nonpolitical government is unrealistic, adding that an all-inclusive Cabinet should be formed to handle the huge tasks ahead.

“A nonpolitical government is unrealistic. There is no one who is not politicized in the country, even the Prime Minister-designate [Tammam Salam] has a political vision,” Sheikh Naim Qassem said during a ceremony in Beirut’s southern suburbs.

“Therefore, we must think objectively about forming a political government. We call for a national, all-inclusive government.”

The Hezbollah official said the new Cabinet should manage the country’s affairs and supervise elections in a timely way under an electoral law that has the agreement of political parties.

“These are huge tasks the government must shoulder, whether it’s in office for one, two or three months or one, two or three years,” Qassem said.

Salam, who was nominated by the March 8 and March 14 coalitions earlier this month, insists that his government should be nonpolitical and have as its main objective the supervision of a parliamentary election round scheduled to take place in June. The March 14 camp supports Salam’s stance.

“To those who say that the government will handle one task only for a specific period of time, we say: What is the role of the government in other issues? Who manages the country?” Qassem said.

Qassem lashed out at U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Maura Connelly, saying the country could manage without the dictates of foreign countries.

“We say to Connelly: We know how to manage the affairs of our country in cooperation with all the country’s factions; we do not want your advice,” Qassem said.

A source close to Salam told The Daily Star that while the chief mission of Salam’s government was to hold parliamentary elections, it would also address the economic situation and the challenges that have resulted from the presence of several hundred thousand Syrian refugees.

The source said Salam was still tackling the broad outlines of the Cabinet formation, adding that he insists on having a government whose ministers are not running for elections.

“Certainly, these ministers will be close to various political groups, as there is no one in the country who isn’t politicized,” the source said.

Earlier, Salam discussed the economic situation with a delegation from the Lebanese Industrialists Association.

Meanwhile, Batroun MP Butros Harb said he would propose a novel electoral law that he hoped would break the deadlock.

“I am preparing a one-man-one-vote proposal, which will be ready [Saturday],” he told The Daily Star.

The National Bloc, led by Carlos Edde, has long advocated single-member districts.

“There are technical complications in terms of redistricting, but I think that it would be much easier than dividing the country into sectarian pockets,” added Harb, a staunch critic of the Orthodox Gathering proposal, which would require each sect to vote for its own MPs.

Caretaker Health Minister Ali Hasan Khalil, speaking during a ceremony in Beirut, said he hoped the near-unanimous nomination of Salam for the premiership would help in forming a government that represents all parties and whose members agree on a plan of action for “facilitating the passing of an electoral law, holding elections and addressing the socioeconomic situation.”

Separately, caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati issued a circular urging caretaker ministers to limit their activities to routine administrative work in line with Article 64 of the Constitution. It said that any other extraordinary measures that have a significant impact on the economic or political situation in the country require the approval of Mikati and President Michel Sleiman.

A source close to Mikati said the move came in light of comments by MPs, who complained that several caretaker ministers were exceeding their prerogatives. – With additional reporting by Hasan Lakkis

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 20, 2013, on page 1.




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