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Lebanon’s New Government: “Elections” Mission And Unrepresentative Lineup | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun (C) meets with Prime minister-designate Saad al-Hariri (R) and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon December 18, 2016. Dalati Nohra/Handout via Reuters

Beirut- After waiting for more than one and a half months to form the new cabinet, Lebanese were not surprised by the new cabinet lineup, which remained “an identical picture” of previous governments at several levels.

Some ministers were given portfolios that have nothing in common with their field of expertise. New ministries were created to please some political parties. Only one woman out of the 30-member cabinet was appointed minister despite all the slogans raised by politicians supporting women’s empowerment.

And what is clear to everyone is that the mission of the current government is almost restricted to preparing the upcoming parliamentary elections, expected to take place in around six months. Even several officials do not hide the fact that they do not rely on the achievements of the new ministers, whose majority aim to also run for the parliamentary elections.

Legal expert and head of the JUSTICIA nongovernmental institution Paul Morcos described the first government of President Michel Aoun as the “cabinet of anticipation” because it was formed in a way to serve the task of preparing for the parliamentary elections,” if parties agree on a new electoral law.

However, Environment Minister Tarek Khatib, who belongs to the Free Patriotic Movement and who is also running for the upcoming parliamentary elections told Asharq Al-Awsat: “A minister willing to work would reach a result whether in six days, six months or a year, and the opposite is true.”

Khatib said that although the current government has a mission to prepare for the next elections, ministers should also work on other issues to fulfill their tasks. The new environment minister admitted he has a difficult mission to treat the garbage crisis, but said: “Nothing is impossible.”

Khatib defended ministers who wish to also run for the upcoming elections: “A minister running for parliamentary elections does not contradict his mission if he fulfills his promises without expecting anything in return.”

However, Morcos said the current cabinet should have included experts who can manage the electoral process. He said the cabinet’s current loose form with its portfolios and representations place several question marks particularly on whether political forces want to extend its term by postponing the parliamentary elections or hold these elections based on a “pre-packed” electoral law.

Speaking at the constitutional level, Morcos said the new cabinet is formed by several ministries without portfolios, which means ministries lacking the human, financial and administrative factors that would allow them to function. Therefore, Morcos said those ministries without portfolios are nothing but “honorary” positions to please some political forces.

He said the current government lineup remains a blatant proof that ministerial appointments are based on sectarian, regional and clientelism factors, and not based on the expertise of ministers.