Hariri Concludes Second Day of Unbinding Consultations

Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri concluded the second and final day of unbinding consultations with lawmakers on Saturday to form a new cabinet.

He first met with the Syrian Social Nationalist Party. After the meeting leader of the SSNP said: “The government’s priority must go to the social and economic issues and to meet the needs of the citizens to encourage them to stay in their country. Reform begins with stipulating an election law that does justice to the Lebanese.

He added: “It is our right to have a sovereign ministerial portfolio.”

Hariri later met with MP Emile Rahme who said: “I have asked for the formation of a national unity government.

“The trilogy of army-people-resistance is what made Lebanon reach these entitlements, and I hope it is mentioned in the ministerial statement.”

Hizbullah’s Loyalty to the Resistance later met Hariri. MP Mohammed Raad said: “The atmospheres are optimistic and we agreed to follow a mechanism for the distribution of portfolios.

“We reiterated the need to address the living conditions and to improve the security situation in addition to the necessity to stipulate an electoral law that provides just representation.”

On behalf of the Armenian MPs bloc, MP Agop Pakradonian said after meeting Hariri: “We suggested the formation of a 32-minister cabinet that can represent even the minorities. We urged for a speedy but not hasty formation of a cabinet.”

Al-Jamaa al-Islamiya MP Mohammed al-Hout said: “We would like to be represented in the cabinet. I expressed our hopes that the ministerial statement begins with the Baabda declaration and the oath of office (made by Aoun).”

For his part, MP Robert Ghanem said: “I have asked Hariri to form a national unity government that restores confidence in the State and its institutions and that brings back the Arab investments to Lebanon to create job opportunities.”

“We expect a speedy government formation to reactivate the state’s institutions and solve the people’s problems. We reminded of the need not to exclude any sect from any ministry,” MP Michel Pharaon said.

After meeting with Hariri, MP Serge Ter Sarkisian stated: “This government should be productive. Power lies in the President and the PM, not in the ministers.”

MP Ahmed Fatfat of the Mustaqbal bloc met with Hariri alone at first and later joined the bloc which is headed by MP Fouad Saniora, who said: “We urged for a quick cabinet formation and we wish that everyone facilitates the process.”

Former prime minister Hariri was nominated Thursday to form Lebanon’s next government.

Hariri’s key support had contributed to the election of Free Patriotic Movement founder and ex-army chief Michel Aoun as Lebanon’s 13th president on Monday, which ended around two and a half years of presidential and political vacuum.

Hariri’s nomination and Aoun’s election have raised hopes that Lebanon can begin tackling challenges including a stagnant economy, a moribund political class and the influx of more than a million Syrian refugees.

In a sign that Hariri’s task ahead might not be easy, Hizbullah’s MPs declined to endorse him for the prime minister post, even though his nomination was all-but-assured.

Hariri is likely to struggle with his government’s policy statement, which will have to make reference to Israel, as well as the war in Syria, both potential flashpoints with Hizbullah.

The process of forming a government could take months, with horsetrading likely to revolve around the distribution of key posts like the interior, defense and energy ministrie