BEIRUT: Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri has solved the issue of Lebanese Forces representation in the Lebanese government — but now Hezbollah has raised a problem concerning the representation of the Sunni opposition in the government.
That issue prompted Prime Minister Hariri, who has been working on the Lebanese Forces issue for more than five months, to say that he would not give any portion of his quota, consisting of six Sunni ministers, to the Sunni opposition and warned that “look for a person other than me to form a government.”
However, the issue remained within the scope of a statement and has not become an official excuse not to form a government yet. On Tuesday evening, Hariri visited President Michel Aoun and left without revealing anything about the meeting.
Ten Sunni deputies won the parliamentary elections last May from outside the Future Movement, which won 20 seats in the election. These Sunni opposition deputies believe that they are entitled to be represented in the government.
Only six out of 10 MPs are trying to get representation, noting that they belong to other parliamentary blocs, most notably the Hezbollah bloc, the Nabih Berri bloc, the Al-Marada Movement bloc, along with Abdul Rahim Murad (independent) and Adnan Trabelsi (Ahbash). The other four deputies, including former Prime Minister Najib Miqati and businessman Fuad Makhzoumi, preferred not to confront the Future Movement.
According to the distribution of ministerial quotas on the parliamentary blocs in accordance with their sizes, the president of the republic has in this government a Sunni minister. The question that was raised on Tuesday in the Lebanese media was whether the president of the republic would surrender this post for the Sunni opposition.
However, the sources of the presidency referred the new problem to Prime Minister Hariri to find a solution to it, as he did with the problem of the Lebanese Forces. Speaking at a meeting with President Nabih Berri, Ali Hassan Khalil, finance minister in the caretaker government, said: “The atmosphere of the president of the republic, the speaker of the parliament and the prime minister-designate shows that things are complicated.”
On Tuesday, opposition Sunni MPs approached parliamentary speaker Berri and Hezbollah seeking their representation in the Cabinet by one minister.
Mustafa Allouche, a leading figure in the Future Movement, told Arab News that “through raising the issue of the representation Sunni opposition MPS, who are under its banner, Hezbollah is trying to assure them that it is capable of protecting them and supporting their demands. It is also trying to show the public opinion that it cares about the people who stand with it, while seeking at the same time to place them in advanced positions in the face of its opponents.”
But Alloush said that he does not “understand the external reason why Hezbollah is obstructing the formation of the government in these regional circumstances,” stressing that Prime Minister Hariri “will not accept to give his ministerial quota to the Sunni opposition.”
Opposition Sunni MP Walid Al-Sukkariyeh, who is a member of the “Loyalty to the Resistance” bloc, was among those who visited Speaker Berri and Hezbollah on Tuesday. He told Arab News: “Our demand for representation in the government is not new. We said on the first day of our victory in the parliamentary elections that we wanted to be represented in the government. But in Lebanon, since the days of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, Sunni representation was limited to Hariri and the Future Movement. But the equations have changed and the Future Movement has lost 10 seats in the parliamentary elections. Yet they avoided recognizing our existence, and everyone went to solve the problem of the Lebanese Forces.”
“The Shiites have set their seats, and so have the Christians and the Druze. Only the Sunnis have remained,” Sukkariyeh said.
“Our alliance with others does not mean that we do not represent the Sunni street,” he said.
Commenting on the claim that those who voted for them were not Sunni, Sukkariyeh said: “We represent the Sunnis even if we win the elections with non-Sunni votes.”
“Our demand lies with Prime Minister Hariri and he has to give us from his quota, not the president, because the Sunni minister is his share.”
“We will not back down from our demand … as long as it is sectarian distribution; we have the right to be represented in the government,” Sukkariyeh said.