Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—Lebanon’s prime minister-designate, Tammam Salam, moved closer to forming a “fait accompli” government this week after Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun rejected the proposed allocation of ministerial portfolios.
Salam, who has held his post since last April, held a prolonged meeting with Lebanese President Michel Suleiman earlier this week, during which the two officials discussed how to allocate Cabinet positions and a mechanism for choosing the names of new ministers based on the 8-8-8 formula. This much-discussed formula would see eight ministerial portfolios being held by the March 14 Alliance, eight by the March 8 Alliance, and eight being given to independents.
But Aoun, who also heads the Change and Reform parliamentary bloc, subsequently criticized Salam for obstructing the Cabinet-formation process, rejecting the proposed ministerial allocations.
During a press conference on Tuesday, Aoun confirmed his opposition to the principle of rotating ministerial portfolios and rejected the Future Movement’s calls for a national unity cabinet.
He said: “The danger in the cabinet formation process lies in the fact that its consultations eliminated the presence of the largest Christian parliamentary bloc,” adding during a press conference following a weekly Change and Reform bloc meeting that “the [current] practices have nothing to do with constitutional principles or norms that were established during the previous Cabinet formation efforts . . . [The present] practices should be rejected outright to prevent setting a precedent.”
Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam has reportedly offered Aoun and his party the foreign affairs and education ministerial portfolios. Aoun is thought to have rejected these and is insisting that his movement also keep the energy portfolio. The caretaker energy minister post is held by Aoun’s son-in-law, Basil Gebran Bassil.
According to sources close to the Cabinet-formation process, Aoun’s rejection has pushed Salam to move towards establishing a “fait accompli” government. This would be a government formed of those political parties who agree with the Cabinet formation, with the political parties who reject it remaining on the sidelines.
The sources, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, said that a fait accompli government could be announced within the next few days, after Salam and Suleiman had exhausted all political and constitutional options to get the talks back on track.
Following Aoun’s statements, Salam has reportedly moved to secure sufficient Christian representation in his prospective national unity government, holding talks with the Kataeb Party and the Marada Movement.
Hezbollah has sought to convince March 8 ally Aoun and his Free Patriotic Movement to return to negotiations and take part in the future government, fearing his departure would weaken their own position.