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Monday, June 9, 2008

What's Keeping Saniora from Announcing New Cabinet?

07/06/2008 Mora than 15 days have passed since the Doha Accord that put an end to the political crisis in Lebanon was signed. A new President has been elected and the opposition sit-in in down-town Beirut has been removed, however the new government with a guaranteeing one-third of ministers from the opposition (as stipulated in the agreement) has not been formed yet.

The Doha agreement ended a three-year epoch of power monopoly and decision appropriation by the ruling bloc against the Lebanese people.

What is keeping this new government from seeing light?
It's the ruling bloc itself, but how?

The new government should comprise 30 ministers. According to the political distribution, the loyalty bloc takes 16 seats, the opposition takes 11 and the President takes 3 ministers.
In terms of confessions, the government should be made up of 6 Maronite, 6 Sunni, 6 Shiite, 4 Orthodox, 3 Druze, 3 Catholic and 2 Armenian Ministers. Such distribution has put the loyalty bloc in front of a big problem on the Christian and Sunni levels.

The problem gets more complex on the Christian level, particularly the Maronite level. Of the 6 Maronite seats in the Cabinet, the President wants a minister and the Lebanese National Opposition – Namely MP General Michel Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement – wants 2 seats leaving the loyalty bloc with three Maronite seats.

The problem begins here.

Prime Minister designate Fouad Saniora wants a seat reserved for his finance minister Jihad Az'our, the Phalanges Party (of former President Amine Gemayel) is demanding 2 seats and the Lebanese Forces (of Samir Geagea) is demanding three seats. Moreover, the Qornet Shehwan teams is also demanding a seat in the new Cabinet. Of course, there remains the representation dilemma of Social Affairs Minister in the caretaker government Nayla Moawwad and MP Butros Harb.

For Sunnis, there are 6 seats and there are Saniora, the Tripoli Bloc (headed by MP Mohammed Safadi who has become a burden on the loyalty bloc) and there is Tripoli MP Misbah Ahdab who wants a seat in the new Cabinet. This explains why Ahdab has been assailing Safadi.

There are similar complexities for the Orthodox and Catholic seats.
This has prompted the loyalty bloc to seek to take whatever it can from the opposition's share in the government. Saniora suggested giving them 8 portfolios and 3 ministers of states, however a source in the opposition said that Saniora's proposal was odd. "Suppose that we distributed the seat equally between Hezbollah, Amal and the Free Patriotic Movement, Shiites would have four portfolios in a government of 30 ministers, whereas Shiites had five portfolios in a government of 24 ministers, so how can this be?" the source wondered.
He also noted that the loyalty bloc still insists on considering some portfolios as its exclusive right. "The ministry of finance that MP Aoun is demanding is a red line and the communications ministry that Hezbollah is demanding is also a red line," the source said.

The government should have been announced before the arrival of French President Nicholas Sarkozy to Beirut, however the loyalty block has so far failed to resolve its differences over representation in the new Cabinet.

courtesy : almanar

Mohamad Shmaysani

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