Baabda Hezbollah differences driving Berri, Siniora apart


berri sinioraThe differences between the Baabda presidential palace and Hezbollah are influencing the consultations between Speaker Nabih Berri and former Lebanese PM and Future Movement parliamentary bloc leader MP Fouad Siniora local sources told al-Liwaa newspaper in a report published on Saturday.

The sources revealed that the Amal Movement leader who is a staunch ally of Hezbollah is not scheduled to have any meeting with Siniora anytime soon.

Future Movement MP Ahmed Fatfat slammed Berri on Friday after the speaker said in remarks to al-Joumhouria daily that under the current circumstances, the only choice left is the formation of a 9-9-6 formula cabinet or a return to the dialogue table. He described Berri and Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah as two sides of the same coin.

But another Future Movement MP, Ammar Houri, told al-Liwaa on Saturday that despite claims of frozen ties between Berri and Siniora, “dialogue between them is open.”

“It involves other issues and wasn’t affected by the dispute on the formation of the cabinet and the 9-9-6 formula,” he said.

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’s 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  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.

Earlier this week President Suleiman urged the formation of a new government to oversee the presidential elections that are scheduled for May 2014 and stressed they should be held on time.

“A new government should be formed to oversee the presidential elections even if it doesn’t receive parliamentary vote of confidence,” Suleiman said in a speech on Tuesday.

But Sheikh Naim Qassem , Hezbollah’s number 2 , dismissed President Suleiman’s proposal for the formation of a new government to oversee the upcoming presidential elections as “unconstitutional.”

“Suleiman’s proposal for the formation of a new government, with or without a parliamentary vote of confidence, to oversee the presidential elections is unconstitutional,” Qassem said.


De facto cabinet

The Baabda presidential palace officials denied that President  Suleiman was seeking to form a de facto cabinet along with Salam but confirmed that he would take action before the end of his term in May next year.

The officials told An Nahar daily that Suleiman will take into consideration the regional and local situation before taking any action on the government crisis.

“Had Suleiman wanted the formation of a fait accompli cabinet, he would have  done so long time ago , but he is keen on  exerting all efforts to agree on an all-embracing government which assumes its responsibilities and receives the parliament’s vote of confidence,” the officials told An Nahar