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Lebanon’s Political Blocs Compete Over 'Sovereign' Ministerial Portfolios - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Beirut – Ongoing consultations to form the new Lebanese government have highlighted local competition between the different political blocs over the sovereign portfolios, which include the ministries of interior, finance, defense and foreign affairs.

Those key ministries are usually allocated to the country’s four major political confessions, including the Maronite, Greek Orthodox, Sunni and Shiite sects.

Media reports said that the Sunnis’ share in the government will be allocated to the bloc of Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, while the Shiite share will be dedicated to Speaker Nabih Berri.

Unconfirmed reports added that the two other key ministries will be part of President Michel Aoun’s share, while the Lebanese Forces party – a key Christian supporter of Aoun – will not have its share in the sovereign portfolios.

Lebanese Forces (LF) MP Fadi Karam said that the agreement with Aoun was based on national partnership, adding that his bloc wanted to have “efficient” positions in the country.

In a radio interview, Karam said that the Lebanese Forces were seeking to get a sovereign portfolio in order to assume a greater responsibility within the government.

Disagreements over the distribution of key portfolios are likely to delay the formation of the new Cabinet. The head of the Democratic Gathering bloc, MP Walid Jumblatt, has earlier voiced his concern over this matter, as he was quoted by the local media saying: “It is important to facilitate the formation of the government and avoid requests that are impossible to meet”.

In comments to Asharq al-Awsat newspaper, Lebanese legal expert, Dr. Wassim Mansouri, said that the sovereign portfolios are not stated in the Lebanese Constitution, but have become a customary rule in the political life. The Constitution does not distinguish between a ministry and another and considers all ministers to be equal, he added.

Mansouri explained that the importance of the finance ministry lies in the fact that the minister signs “99.99 per cent of Cabinet decisions”. He added that the foreign affairs minister is Lebanon’s official spokesperson abroad, while the defense ministry defines the country’s defense policy and the interior ministry monitors internal security, parliamentary elections and other key duties.

Hariri began on Friday consultations with the parliamentarians to form the new cabinet, after being nominated to the post by 112 out of 126 members of parliament.