Berri: Chances of a government formation almost "nil"


berri 112509Lebanon Speaker Nabih Berri warned that the formation of a new government is becoming increasingly unlikely amid the deepening political deadlock in Lebanon.

“The chances of a formation of a new government are decreasing daily, and they will be almost nil by the end of the current month,” Berri said in remarks published by Al-Akhbar newspaper on Friday.

“After that, at the beginning the coming year, the discussions will focus solely on the issue of the presidential elections.” He added

The speaker also said that he was prepared to call for a parliament session to discuss the ministerial statement of a government that could be formed ahead of the presidential elections.

“I will, however, be unable to present this initiative when the country enters the last ten days before the end of the term of President Michel Suleiman.”

“Then, parliament will be under the obligation to convene to elect a new president without the need for the speaker’s invitation.”

The president’s mandate is due to expire in May 2014 and Suleiman has repeatedly said that he was opposed to any extension of his term.

Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam has been trying since his appointment last April to form a cabinet based on giving an equal share to the rival political blocks – March 14 , March 8 and the centrists, but the Hezbollah led March 8 alliance has been insisting on having a bigger share in the cabinet to allow it to veto its decisions . Salam has been opposed to giving any party a veto power ( usually referred to as a blocking third ) and has been insisting that the 8-8-8 formula is in the best interest of Lebanon . He has on several occasions floated the idea of forming a neutral cabinet of technocrats, but Hezbollah and FPM leader MP Michel Aoun have been opposed to this idea too. Meanwhile, the Future Movement and other March 14 parties claim that they will not be part of a cabinet in which Hezbollah participates and this is why Lebanon is still without a government and Mikati is still acting as the caretaker Prime Minister.

During his televised address in October Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said he accepts the 9-9-6 formula.
“We [currently] accept the 9-9-6 formula [for cabinet formation], but when conditions change we might no longer accept it; take advantage of the opportunity,” Nasrallah told March 14 alliance

PSP leader walid jumblatt has been promoting the 9-9-6 formula that was initially proposed by Hezbollah’s ally Speaker Berri which calls for giving veto power to the two main rival camps March 14 and March 8, but 6 ministers only to the centrist bloc which is supposed to include president Michel Suleiman and PM designate Tammam Salam in addition to Jumblatt. But many March 14 politicians now consider Jumblatt a part of the March 8 alliance and for this reason they rejected the proposal. March 14 alliance is also insisting that Hezbollah should withdraw its fighters from Syria before participating in any new cabinet.