LEBANON: As Lebanon’s Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib continues his efforts to form a new government, on Friday he presented to President Michel Aoun a proposal for “distributing the ministries to various sects before setting a final formula on who will be nominated to these ministries,” sources said. The two men will meet again on Saturday for further discussions.
Adib is facing sustained pressure from Hezbollah and the Amal Movement, who have raised their demands to insist that all ministerial positions are filled by Shiites, and not only the key role of minister of finance.
This has jeopardized his efforts to form a “government that satisfies everybody,” based on a French initiative that calls for the appointment of a small team of independent specialists representing all religious sects, who are not members of the main political parties.
Government sources said: “Adib, during his meeting with representatives of Hezbollah and the Amal Movement on Thursday evening, refused to accept from them a list of names of Shiites from which to choose a minister of finance.”
During his Friday sermon the following day, the Grand Jaafari Mufti Ahmad Qabalan said: “We insist on nominating our ministers and we refuse to accept that anyone else will do that for us, no matter who he is.”
Economic experts said on Friday that the continuing debates about the formation of the government are a “waste of precious time,” which is a luxury Lebanon does not have. They criticized the continued prioritization of political interests over the best interests of the country and warned that “it is a matter of life or death for the Lebanese people.”
They pointed out “thousands have lost their businesses and tens of thousands have lost their jobs, and 55 percent of the Lebanese people are living below the poverty line. There is a shortage of essential products, and the reserves of the Banque du Liban (the Lebanese Central Bank) have withered away.” Meanwhile there has been a brain drain of professionals and businessmen leaving the country, “which threatens to deprive Lebanon of one of its strongest and most important assets.”
Adib faced further obstacles from Hezbollah allies on Friday when Suleiman Frangieh, leader of the Marada Movement, announced that he does not agree that the Prime Minister-designate should choose who represents his party in the government without consulting with him.
Meanwhile, Talal Arslan, leader of the Lebanese Democratic Party, called on Adib to “show respect to parliamentary blocks.”
Others warned that the president cannot approve a list of ministers he does not know, and that giving a Shiite party the finance portfolio must not deny other sects the right to ministries that they claim.
“The French initiative is blocked due to the conflict between particular interests and regional and international calculations,” said Lebanese MP Bilal Abdallah. “The country cannot stand this any more and it might collapse if things continue the way they are.”
He added that he hopes Adib will continue his efforts to form a government and give the French initiative a chance.
Lebanese academic Dr. Hares Sleiman said: “The options of Hezbollah and Amal Movement are determined by their priorities: do they want to defend Iran’s quota … or do they want to have the livelihood of the Lebanese people as their priority, including their supporters and the Shiites of Lebanon?”
He added: “(Amal Movement leader and Speaker of the Parliament Nabih) Berri wants the Ministry of Finance at a time when there is a shortage of money, and the international community is demanding the dismissal of those who are corrupt and the implementation of reforms to save the Lebanese economy.
“So would Berri accept an independent government that satisfies the demands of protesters in the streets so that Lebanon would enjoy internal, Arab and international support? If he does that, he would be conspiring against Hezbollah and its allies in power. If he does not, then the caretaker government of Hassan Diab will stay, and the crisis and the sanctions will continue.”