Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam embarked Tuesday on the difficult mission of forming a new government whose primary task would be to supervise the upcoming elections.
As part of a two-day nonbinding parliamentary consultations, Salam held a series of meetings with former prime ministers and parliamentary blocs who informed him of their vision for the next Cabinet.
The head of the Future parliamentary bloc MP Fouad Siniora and Deputy Speaker Farid Makari asked Salam to rotate ministries among political parties, while Hezbollah, along with its allies in the March 8 alliance, sought a unified government.
MP Walid Jumblatt, however, vowed to facilitate Salam’s mission in the formation process “without placing any preconditions, and said the new PM would come up with a “suitable formula” that protects stability.
Lebanese Forces MP Elie Keyrouz voiced his bloc’s support for a “neutral government of technocrats” that would adopt the so-called Baabda Declaration as its ministerial statement.
The declaration, agreed on by rival leaders last year, stipulate that Lebanon should be at a distance from regional turmoil, particularly events in Syria.
Keyrouz also stressed on the need “to have the decision of war and peace exclusively in the hands of the state,” saying the Constitution makes no mention of the principle of resistance, which “does not have a consensus.”
The prime-minister designate has said that the main task of his government would be to hold the parliamentary polls scheduled for June, which face a possible delay in the absence of an agreement over a new electoral law to replace the one currently in effect.
As for the type of government he aspires for, Salam has voiced support for a Cabinet whose ministers are not running for the elections in order to guarantee transparency.
Speaking to reporters following his meeting with the new PM, Siniora reiterated his party’s demand of ministers who are not running for a parliamentary seat and urged political parties to help Salam in the process of forming a new government.
“We came here today to participate in this constitutional duty to congratulate Salam and wish him luck so he could form a Cabinet lineup capable of working in a homogeneous manner,” he said.
He noted that the new government should be “capable of applying the correct democratic definition which would be rotating ministries, primarily the Finance Ministry.”
For his part, Makari said he asked Salam to do away with what he described as “the sectarian monopoly over certain ministries,” referring to the Change and Reform bloc headed by Aoun.
“I had three wishes for him. [First] to break the rigid sectarian monopoly over certain ministries and be keen on not allowing a single political party to [exclusively] represent their corresponding sect as well as not allocating the Energy and Telecommunications ministries for example, to any party that could benefit from it," Makari told reporters.
Politicians allied with Aoun have been ministers of Telecoms and Energy for three consecutive Cabinets.
Aoun, however, defended the performance of his ministers in both sectors and said the only type of Cabinet needed today was one based on national unity.
“We don't want a Cabinet to merely hold the elections but to also face the many challenges, particularly during this unstable time. A national unity government is the only one capable of facing such events,” Aoun said.
“We hoped of him [to form] a political government. We asked that it be an all embracing Cabinet to supervise the polls and handle the country’s affairs, as well as represent political parties depending on their weight in Parliament,” Raad, head of the Loyalty to the Resistance bloc, said.
Salam, a 67-year-old lawmaker, seen as a moderate politician, received 124 nominations out of the 128-member parliament during consultations last week headed by President Sleiman.
Salam also met with caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati as well as Speaker Nabih Berri and his parliamentary bloc.
The outgoing prime minister said he urged the new PM to swiftly form a government to replace the current caretaker Cabinet.
"During the meeting with the prime minister-designate, we discussed many issues ... and asked for a swift Cabinet formation, because that would lessen the burden of the caretaker [government] in these circumstances that the country is going through," Mikati said.
He also asked Salam that his government's goal should be holding the parliamentary elections.
Salam, who has hoped consensus over his appointment would be transferred into the formation process, will resume the consultations Wednesday via a series of meetings with the rest of the parliamentary blocs and independent lawmakers.