Lebanon unity government ‘could be formed within days’

A group of six Hezbollah-allied Sunni lawmakers wanted a Cabinet seat to reflect gains made in elections earlier this year, when Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri lost more than a third of his MPs. (Reuters)
Updated 19 December 2018
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Lebanon unity government ‘could be formed within days’

  • Lebanon appeared to be edging toward clinching a deal to form a new national unity government after more than seven months of wrangling over cabinet posts
  • Heavily indebted and suffering from a stagnant economy, Lebanon is in dire need of an administration

BEIRUT: A unity government in Lebanon could be formed within days following positive developments, political sources told Arab News Tuesday. There has been gridlock for months over efforts to form a new administrations, with Sunni representation one of the thorniest issues.
A group of six Hezbollah-allied Sunni lawmakers wanted a Cabinet seat to reflect gains made in elections earlier this year, when Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri lost more than a third of his MPs. Hariri initially ruled out ceding one of his Cabinet seats to any of the six. But a compromise means the six can nominate candidates, rather than take a ministerial seat for themselves. Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, from the General Directorate of General Security, acted as mediator between the lawmakers, President Michel Aoun and Hariri. “If the atmosphere remains positive, I am sure that the government will be formed soon,” Ibrahim told Arab News.
He met Hariri and then Aoun to brief them about the outcomes of Tuesday’s meetings. Two of the six lawmakers were positive about the day’s developments.
“The Sunni problem has been resolved and there will be an independent Sunni minister in the next government,” MP Elwalid Succariyeh told Arab News.
“Since he has approved our ministerial representation, the meeting may take place in the presidential palace with President Michel Aoun, and the president decides on this.”
MP Abdul Rahim Murad was even more optimistic about ending the logjam.
“All the problems have been resolved and we will have our representatives in the government,” he told Arab News. “The Lebanese will hear definite news in the next two days.”
Hundreds of people protested on Sunday about the lack of progress — and the lack of a government — seven months after the election.
They also complained about corruption, poor public services and soaring levels of public debt.
The Future Movement, which is led by Hariri, said it was possible a new government could be formed ahead of the Christmas holidays and that it should be “urgent in light of economic and social challenges.” Political expert Dr. Maha Yahya said that what was happening in Lebanon and the region was one and the same.  
“There is a kind of regional solution and Lebanon is part of the ongoing chess game. All this is part of give and take,” she told Arab News.
“If the Iranians get something in the region, they give something in return. Have they taken anything from the Europeans? Is there an agreement somewhere with the Iranians? Lebanon is facing a dangerous economic and political situation in light of the Israeli threat of war. If Lebanon collapses, it will collapse on everyone. It is in the interest of all parties, including Hezbollah, to proceed with a solution. There is a sort of pragmatism. Everyone has reached a crucial point. I believe that even if the government is formed, it will face enormous challenges amid a septic atmosphere internally and externally.”


Iraqi PM makes first visit to protest-hit Basra

Updated 5 min 42 sec ago
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Iraqi PM makes first visit to protest-hit Basra

  • Adel Abdel Mahdi visited several infrastructure and service projects in the oil-rich province
  • The provincial capital is still rocked by demonstrations every Friday
BAGHDAD: Iraqi premier Adel Abdel Mahdi visited Basra on Sunday, his first trip as prime minister to the southern province where lagging services spawned a water crisis and deadly protests last summer.
Abdel Mahdi’s office said he visited several infrastructure and service projects in the oil-rich province, including water provision services in the Shatt Al-Arab area.
“He called for redoubled efforts so these projects can be accomplished as quickly as possible,” his office said.
In the summer of 2018, an unprecedented water crisis in Basra left 100,000 people hospitalized and sparked a massive protest movement that resulted in a dozen dead.
The provincial capital is still rocked by demonstrations every Friday demanding more access to drinking water, steady electricity and jobs for unemployed youth.
After his appointment in October, Abdel Mahdi pledged to present a plan to fulfill these demands within his first 100 days in office.
But it has yet to be announced and the premier is still struggling to finalize the formation of his cabinet.
The real test, observers say, will be Iraq’s sweltering summer months, when temperatures rise to more than 50 degrees Celsius and shortages of water and electricity can be life threatening.