Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri on Monday held one-day, unbinding consultations with the parliamentary blocs and deputies in Nejmeh Square, kicking off his bid to form a new government.
Hariri first met with Speaker Nabih Berri, and afterwards met separately with former PM Tammam Salam and ex-PM Najib Miqati.
Salam made remarks to reporters after the meeting saying although everyone is calling for a quick Cabinet formation, “but I don’t think it should be rushed.”
Deputy Speaker Elie Ferzli said he wished Hariri “would take the presence of the opposition into account so as not to disrupt the supervisory role of the Parliament.”
The PM-designate then started receiving the various parliamentary blocs. He met with the Development and Liberation bloc that stressed “commitment to the Constitution, preserving Lebanon’s sovereignty and seeking the formation of a national body to abolish political sectarianism.”
He then met with al-Mustaqbal bloc and the Strong Lebanon bloc that called for adding two more portfolios to the Cabinet.
The Strong Lebanon bloc demanded that minority groups, the Alawite and Syriac communities, be represented in the Cabinet, saying the bloc wants six ministerial portfolios other than the President’s share and the allocation of either the finance or interior ministry to the Free Patriotic Movement.
Hariri then met the Loyalty to Resistance bloc, the Democratic Gathering bloc, the Kataeb bloc and the Strong Republic bloc of the Lebanese Forces. The LF's bloc demanded a share of the ministerial seats allocated to the President, arguing that it had “played a role in his election.”
“We wished success for PM-designate Hariri and we want everyone to show positivity to give a real chance to the country. Today the entire country is on the same boat and if it sinks we will all drown,” Kataeb Party chief MP Sami Gemayel said after the talks.
“We care about programs and priorities more than individuals and we will take the right stance accordingly,” he added.
MP Mohammed Raad said Hizbullah's Loyalty to Resistance bloc “welcomed the designation of PM-designate Saad Hariri to form the government and stressed its willingness for positive cooperation with him.”
“As for portfolios, the bloc said it has the right to have a key portfolio and also stressed the need to create a public planning ministry for the country in order to clearly define the long-term course that the country would take in a correct and appropriate manner,” Raad added.
MP Talal Arslan meanwhile stressed that his Mountain Guarantee bloc should be represented by a Druze minister.
“The results of the parliamentary elections led to the formation of two blocs in Mount Lebanon and they have the right to be represented,” Arslan added.
MP Hagop Pakradounian of the Armenian MPs bloc meanwhile demanded the formation of a 32-member Cabinet and the allocation of two portfolios to the Armenian community.
MP Fouad Makhzoumi meanwhile called for “discussing the national defense strategy in parliament and not outside state institutions.”
Media reports said the various political parties are eager for an “expedited” formation of a “national unity government” able of confronting the “danger facing Lebanon's economic and financial system,” al-Joumhouria daily reported.
Although political parties have reportedly shown eagerness to facilitate the formation process, but they have also reflected their demands regarding portfolios and shares in the new Cabinet.
The Progressive Socialist Party (of Walid Jumblat) is demanding the allocation of all three Druze seats to the PSP, which would keep Arslan out of the government.
The PSP argue that they kept a place for Arslan on their electoral list during the parliamentary elections, but he chose instead to strike an alliance with the FPM.
Another obstacle that could be facing the formation is the dispute between the Free Patriotic Movement and the Lebanese Forces over the Christian shares and portfolios.
Furthermore, the daily said Hariri “will not enter into details during his consultations so as not to commit himself to anything in advance, but rather to listen more than talk.”
Meanwhile, “a kind of resentment is lingering among Sunni circles because of attempts made by Shiite and Christian parties to control the role of the PM-designate,” the daily said.
“Circles close to Hariri have advised him to draw clear lines for his jurisdiction, mainly that the Sunni situation bears no more jabs particularly after the outcome of the parliamentary election,” the daily added.