Lebanon News

Lebanon forms 30-member Cabinet

Aoun meets with Hariri and Berri at the Baabda Palace, Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016. (The Daily Star/Dalati&Nohra, HO)

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s new Cabinet was announced Sunday after major political powers managed to thaw obstacles hindering the formation process.

Hariri, 46, was appointed on Nov. 3, following the election of President Michel Aoun on Oct. 31, which ended almost two years of presidential vacuum.

He succeeded Tammam Salam’s government that has been marred by differences over power-sharing and the prerogatives of the premier in absence of a president. Former President Michel Sleiman’s term ended in May 2014.

Since his appointment, Hariri's efforts to form his Cabinet have been hampered by overlapping demands by rival parties for key ministerial portfolios.

Hariri headed to the Baabda Palace Sunday to meet with Aoun. Speaker Nabih Berri later joined the meeting.

Berri told reporters after leaving the Baabda Palace: “God’s will today will [witness] a new Cabinet.”

After the three finalized the Cabinet lineup, Aoun inked Salam’s resignation decree and Hariri’s appointment decree. The three officials later signed a decree pertaining to the appointment of the 29 ministers.

Cabinet Secretary-General Fouad Flayfel announced the formation decrees and the names of the new ministers.

The four key ministerial portfolios: the Finance Ministry, the Foreign Affairs Ministry, the Defense Ministry and the Interior Ministry, were given consecutively to: Ali Hasan Khalil, Gebran Bassil, Yaacoub Sarraf and Nouhad Machnouk.

Hariri described his Cabinet as a national consensus government, underlining that it will "exert efforts during its short-term, which will not exceed few months."

"Its first mission will be to reach with the Parliament a new electoral law that abides by proportional representation and the right representation."

"The Cabinet is an elections government," Hariri added.

Lebanon will witness new parliamentary elections in May 2017.

"I look forward to begin work with the ministers to draft a ministerial statement to gain [the Parliament's] confidence vote," the PM said.

He added that the Cabinet was the first in Aoun's term and poses an "opportunity for everyone to cooperate," calling on the Lebanese to look forward for a better future.

"The few upcoming months will be a chance to prove our respect to the Constitution, adherence to state institutions and provide a successful example to our national unity."

The Cabinet includes 23 newcomers and only one woman. Five new ministries have been established: State Ministry for Refugees Affairs, State Ministry for Anti-Terrorism, State Ministry to Presidential Affairs, State Ministry for Woman Affairs and State Ministry for Human Rights.

Hariri said the Cabinet’s priority was to “maintain stability that Lebanon has been witnessing despite the fires engulfing surrounding countries.”

He vowed to dissociate Lebanon from the Syrian crisis and work on pressuring the international community to help share the burdens posed by the large influx of the Syrian refugees to the country.

Hariri hailed the compromises made by all political factions to facilitate the formation process. "I proposed to the Kataeb to obtain a state ministry but it refused despite all my attempts to convince them."

Kataeb Party leader MP Sami Gemayel said Friday his party would not insist on having a portfolio so long as there is a unified criterion in the process.

Hariri said that he will seek to improve women's role in the country's political life by establishing a quota to represent her.

The announcement of the Cabinet lineup came as a result of resolving a dispute over allotting a key ministerial portfolio to Marada Movement leader Sleiman Frangieh.

Hariri had met with Aoun at the Baabda Palace on Wednesday, in a visit that was widely expected to see the announcement of a 24-member Cabinet lineup.

However, his efforts suffered a setback and he left the palace without making any Cabinet announcement, signaling that new snags had popped up, delaying the formation.

Several officials said earlier this week that a national accord government would see the light ahead of the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

Officials from the political spectrum have expressed belief that Hariri’s Cabinet will be a transitional government with the one main task prioritizing its agenda.

 

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