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Cautious Optimism on Lebanese Cabinet Formation | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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President Aoun, Speaker Berri, PM Salam and PM-designate Hariri at Baabda Palace. NNA

Beirut- Consultations held on the sidelines of Independence Day celebrations on Tuesday gave a new impetus to the efforts exerted by Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri to form Lebanon’s new government.

“The atmosphere over the cabinet formation is positive,” Speaker Nabih Berri was quoted as saying by a number of MPs on Wednesday. He said he hoped that remaining “minor hurdles” would be sorted out so that a new government could be formed soon as possible.

“A workshop is awaiting the new government, at the forefront of which is studying and approving a new electoral law,” Berri said.

He stressed that a new voting system should be at the top of topics that need to be tackled by the cabinet as a prelude to holding parliamentary elections scheduled in May next year.

An official who met Berri told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that the last hurdle delaying the cabinet formation is caused by Christian parties.

“The president and the PM-designate should now work on solving it,” the source said.

But a source close to the cabinet formation process said the last remaining obstacle is Berri’s insistence on retaining the public works ministry to his bloc, in addition to representing the Marada Movement in the new government.

Marada in its turn is holding onto the telecommunications, energy or public works ministry.

“But efforts are being exerted to convince the Marada to get another ministry,” said the source.

A Free Patriotic Movement source also told Asharq Al-Awsat that a deal on the distribution of the 12 Christian ministers in a 24-member cabinet has been struck – The FPM will get three, the Lebanese Forces another three, the president will get two (because he will name a Sunni minister from his share) while the Tashnag Party, Kataeb, Marada and Future Movement will each have one Christian minister.

FPM leader caretaker Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil was also optimistic. He said there was no real reason for the delay in announcing the new government after agreement has been reached on fundamental details.

“Agreement has been reached on fundamental and big details and there is no real reason for delaying the announcement of the cabinet, except for some details that might be important for some and less important for others,” Bassil said.