President Michel Aoun and PM designate Hariri intensified their contacts on Friday in order for a new Cabinet to see the light soon.
Minister Gebran Bassil said that the government formation process was “on the right track,” after he made a surprise visit to Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri Friday afternoon. The third meeting between both men, held over lunch, was followed by a live televised conference during which Minister Bassil told the media that things are very positive and added, “I think that we are on the right track for the government formation.
Furthermore, an issue of Armenian representation in the upcoming Cabinet emerged as yet another possible obstacle to the government’s formation. Media reported that the Armenian party might be allocated only one of the two ministers it is usually given, while the second one will be given to Christian minorities, namely to the Syriac Orthodox sect.
However, and after meeting the delegated PM Hariri, the Tashnag MP Hagop Pakradounian denied there was an “Armenian obstacle” to government formation, and called for the Syriac Orthodox sect to be represented, “but not at the expense of the Armenian ministers.”
Later in the day, local media reported that PM Hariri met with Progressive Socialist Party MP Wael Abu Faour and caretaker Information Minister Melhem Riachi, who was delegated by Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea. However, the positive atmosphere did not last long.
Officials said that the waiting for the formation of the new cabinet over this weekend, suffered a setback late Friday night over the Lebanese Forces’ share, after President Michel Aoun insisted on retaining the Justice Ministry. Local media said that Minister Melhem Riachi, one of three LF ministers in Hariri’s outgoing Cabinet, looked “grim-faced and upset” after emerging from his meeting with the premier-designate, who conveyed to him Bassil’s message that the Justice Ministry would be part of President Michel Aoun’s share.
The Lebanese Forces has been offered four posts: the deputy prime minister’s position and the Social Affairs, Culture and Labor ministries, the source said. Likewise, it appears that the Public Works Ministry, currently held by caretaker Minister Youssef Fenianos from the Marada Movement, will be retained with the movement.
Another setback could also delay the Cabinet formation, a source at Baabda Palace told reporters namely the demands of Sunni legislators, outside Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri’s Future Movement, to be represented in the new government.
Will the Lebanese see the white smoke coming out of Baabda palace this weekend or the cabinet will not be formed before next week? Only time will tell.