Lebanon’s cabinet; heavyweight or feather-light?

Mazen Hayek

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The conditions and specifications of Lebanon’s cabinet formation have finally been set. Hezbollah is requesting PM-designate Tammam Salam to take into consideration the "size and weight" of parliamentary blocs when forming his cabinet. In other words, what is requested is a "political cabinet" that is tantamount to a "reduced parliament."

What has been requested is a cabinet which reflects the balance of powers in the country (and the region), includes the right of he who holds a ministry portfolio to run for the parliamentary elections, takes into consideration the opposition’s requests. This should also take into account the repercussions of arms inside the country.

The basis for the cabinet’s formation does not consider national interest, standards of education, integrity and competence. It does not follow the concept of holding officials accountable

Mazen Hayek

The March 8 coalition also wants to be assigned influential ministries and to have a balancing share in the new cabinet in order to resume the change and reform process which began during the era of the "one-sided cabinet" but could not resume for well-known yet unclear reasons.

In this case, Lebanon is confronting the collapsed idea of establishing a "reduced cabinet," "a technocratic cabinet," "a cabinet of men who are not candidates" for parliamentary elections and a cabinet of harmonious and productive "teamwork." This means that he who specifies the national interest, the capabilities of constitutional institutions, the practice of jurisdictions, separation and cooperation of powers is not the PM-designate in coordination with the president.

Controlling the state

It is neither the cabinet nor the centrists. He who really decides is the one who, through his arms and security apparatuses, controls the state and the country's security and political life. Therefore, the maximum that the PM-designate can do is wait for names that he is supposed to receive from heads of the “tribes."

And afterwards, ministers who are loyal to the "tribe's sheikh" and not to the state or the cabinet will be assigned and they will then be incapable of running their ministries' affairs. In this event, which may become a reality, it is unfortunately not possible to expect any significant breakthroughs that may radically alter the rules of the game.

This will be due to the absence of state constituents, the critical development of the regional situation, the disruption of the domestic powers' balance, the increase of corruption and influence of conflicting tribes and the spread of the concept of quotas and acquired rights.

This will also take into account the prevailing mentality based on sectarian, doctrine and partisan considerations that in turn, are the basis for forming cabinets in Lebanon. Thus this basis for the cabinet’s formation does not consider national interest, standards of education, integrity and competence. It does not follow the concept of holding officials accountable.

What the Lebanese people began to fear two weeks after designating the premier, is that forming a cabinet which does not carry March 8's specifications, which does not meet Hezbollah's conditions and that does not take into consideration "bloc's sizes and weights" will mean that a cabinet will not be formed.

It will also mean that there is no confidence in the parliament and no parliamentary elections will be held. And perhaps, there will be no stability, safety or security. And therefore, there will be no tourism, work or money.

This article was first published in Lebanon-based Annahar on April 19, 2013.

Mazen Hayek is a MarComms & Media practitioner in MENA; weekly op-ed columnist in Annahar Lebanon, he can be followed on Twitter: @HayekMG

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