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Lebanon: Fears from Long Government Vacuum | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Hariri visits Aoun at the Presidential Palace on Monday, November 28, 2016/ NNA

Beirut- Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri’s busy schedule at his Future Movement’s general convention last week and the trip of Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil to Brazil have dissipated the momentum that accompanied the election of President Michel Aoun and the nomination of Hariri to form the new cabinet.

There is no sign that there will be a breakthrough soon on the government lineup, which appears to be hindered by a dispute on the Public Works Ministry, but in fact, is more linked to an attempt by the leading political parties to enforce a new way in dealing with the decision-making strategies that would last until after the spring parliamentary elections and the government that would follow.

A leading official at the Future Movement told Asharq Al-Awsat that the delay in the cabinet formation “was not linked to a portfolio, but is rather an attempt from the Speaker and (Hezbollah) to revive the troika formula (a policy that was implemented during the 1990’s to divide power between the president, the speaker and the prime minister).”

The official, who wished to remain anonymous, said that Speaker Nabih Berri was trying to say that the government should be formed based on a tripartite formula and on a decision taken by Hariri and Aoun alone.

It seems that none of the parties directly concerned by the Public Works Ministry are ready to offer any concessions in this regard.

Officials at the Marada Movement told Asharq Al-Awsat that the party was not ready to give up on its right to get one of the three ministries: Energy, Telecommunications or Public Works.

But, sources at the Lebanese Forces said: “Some parties are trying to halt the cabinet lineup formation and to exert pressure on President Aoun by delaying the start of his term using the Public Works portfolio.”

The sources added: “If each party insists on keeping the ministerial share it had in the previous cabinet, then why MP Suleiman Franjieh is not satisfied with keeping the Ministry of Culture?”

The sources said some parties are hiding behind the Marada Movement to justify halting the formation of the cabinet.

The so-called Hezbollah insists on supporting Franjieh’s right to get an influential portfolio.”

Meanwhile, a meeting held on Monday between Aoun and Hariri at the Presidential Palace did not signal any near announcement of a new cabinet.

Following the talks, Hariri confirmed his understanding with Aoun in all matters, indicating the presence of some knots “which we are trying to untie” in the cabinet formation process.