Lebanese PM Optimistic on Formation of Coalition Govt. as Complications Arise

 

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri concluded on Monday the first days of consultations with various political powers over the formation of a coalition government.

Speaking to reporters after his series of meetings, he expressed hope that the cabinet would be formed quickly to shield Lebanon from regional instability and a dire economic situation which he said posed the biggest danger to the country.

“I sensed great cooperation from all sides to facilitate the formation of the government. Everyone was in agreement that we must speed up the formation process given the regional and economic challenges,” he added.

“There is no doubt that improving the national economy and strengthening state institutions is everyone’s goal,” he stressed.

Pointing to complications ahead, the Lebanese Forces party demanded government representation equal to its main rival, the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), and competition for cabinet portfolios also surfaced among rival Druze factions.

“I am very optimistic, God willing, and I thank everyone for the cooperation they showed today,” Hariri, who will be premier for a third time, said.

“Nobody wants to put a spoke in the wheel and we must therefore reach understandings as soon as possible,” he added.

“Everyone has the right to voice their demands. At this stage, I am listening to the demands of the political blocs… We are capable today of reaching understandings,” he stated.

Lebanon’s economic woes and unsustainable debt levels are seen as top priorities for the next government. So too is the Syrian refugee crisis for a country where one in four people is now a Syrian refugee.

Earlier, parliament Speaker Nabih Berri was quoted saying the government formation should take less than one month.

“Nobody has an interest in delaying the birth of the government or putting complications in its way,” Berri told people who had visited him, the Hariri-owned newspaper Al-Mustaqbal reported.

“Hezbollah” aims to secure a bigger say in the next government than it had in the last one, after the armed group and its allies made gains in the election.

The head of “Hezbollah’s’ parliamentary bloc, Mohammed Raad, told reporters after meeting Hariri that his party had requested a “weighty ministry” in the new government.

Senior political sources have said “Hezbollah” is seeking at least one service-provision ministry and will have three instead of two ministries this time. The group has typically taken ministries of marginal importance.

The staunchly anti-“Hezbollah” Lebanese Forces (LF) party is also seeking more government ministries to reflect its gains in the election. The LF, led by Samir Geagea, nearly doubled its number of seats in parliament, winning 15.

The parliamentary elections were held on May 6.

“The (LF) representation must be equal to the representation of the FPM,” LF lawmaker George Adwan said after meeting Hariri.

The FPM was founded by President Michel Aoun, and has been led by his son-in-law Jebran Bassil since 2015. The group has been politically allied to “Hezbollah” since 2006.

Bassil, foreign minister in the outgoing government, said the FPM’s share of cabinet posts should include either the ministry of finance or the interior, saying his party had been denied both since 2005.

Berri is insisting that the finance ministry remains with his Amal Movement. “Hezbollah” supports that demand, according to sources familiar with the group’s thinking.

 

 

 

 

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