After briefly stepping down last week, Saad Hariri has been reassigned the task of forming a new cabinet. Hariri had been trying since he was appointed prime minister back in June to come up with a cabinet line-up that would suit the very fickle political tastes of Lebanon.
Hariri submitted a list to the president for approval on September 8, but the proposal was rejected outright by the opposition because it was not formulated with their consent.
President Suleiman said he would not endorse a cabinet list unless it had opposition support.
Mr. Hariri stepped down the following week, but was reappointed prime minister by his allies in parliament. He then vowed to step up his efforts to resolve the issue.
One of the key sticking points in the opposition is that General Aoun, of the Free Patriotic Movement, would like to appoint his son-in-law, Gebran Bassil, for the cabinet seat of the telecommunications chief. Hariri has rejected this on the grounds the Mr. Bassil didn’t win his seat in parliament and therefore should not have a seat in the cabinet.
At least one thing appears to be decided: the distribution of the cabinet seats. The plan is to have 15 seats for Hariri’s March 14 majority, 10 seats for the March 8 minority, and 5 seats to be appointed by the president. There seems to be a consensus on this.
It appears that the Lebanese government is once again in a state of paralysis, but that may only be the case at the moment. It must be remembered that this is a country divided by relegion in its very constitution, making negotiations extremely difficult for even the most experienced politician. Amongst other things, it will take time to make this happen, and its only been three months since the parliamentary elections.
Also, Lebanon was without a government for 18 months from 2006 to 2008. Maybe this will just be another phase in Lebanon’s national reconciliation. Or maybe this sort of political gridlock is the natural state of things here.
One things that is for sure is that nothing will change in Lebanon until the politicians fundamentally change they way the operate. Instead of just thinking about their clan, or party, or district, perhaps they should try thinking about what is good for all the Lebanese people. In this case, it is a government that works.
In the end, if an effective government is ever to be formed in Lebanon, the story of how it happened would not be written without two words: compromise and cooperation. Unfortunately, over the last 35 years, those words in Lebanon seem to have become haram.