Hariri: It's my right to try a 'different' cabinet strategy
BEIRUT: Future Movement leader MP Saad Hariri stressed on Monday that he was one of the biggest supporters of the formation of a national unity government, adding that he has the right to adopt a “different” negotiations approach. “I have kept my hand extended but they [the opposition] have always rejected our open approach,” he said during an iftar banquet in honor of Beiruti families at his residence in Qoreitem. 

 

“In face of such rigid stance, it then becomes my constitutional right to adopt a different strategy,” he said.

 

He said he would reveal such a strategy if he is re-appointed as prime-minister designate. 

 

Hariri said he had stepped down as a premier designate “not because I was intending to create a crisis but because I realized that there was no place for wise dialogue.” 

 

He added that his alliance had agreed to include Hizbullah in the cabinet, despite Israeli threats. 

 

“I have been patient for 73 days. Why should I keep patient?” he asked, adding that his national duties require him to adopt a patient and wise attitude for the sake of the country. 

 

Hariri stressed that he was ready to make sacrifices

 

in order to preserve Lebanon’s interests and to save the struggling Lebanese.” 

 

On Monday Hariri’s Lebanon First parliamentary bloc said it would nominate Hariri as prime minister during a second round of binding parliamentary consultations conducted by President Michel Sleiman. The consultations are set to begin on Tuesday. 

 

After a meeting headed by Hariri at his residence in Qoreitem, the bloc stressed in a statement its commitment to constitutional norms with regard to the cabinet formation process. 

 

“The bloc urges all political parties and parliamentary blocs to tackle the issue based on Lebanon’s democratic parliamentary regime which should be respected under all circumstances,” the statement added. 

 

Hariri repeatedly rejected preconditions imposed by opposition groups, while stressing the constitutional prerogatives of the president along with the prime minister-designate in forming a cabinet. 

 

According to the Constitution, the president signs the cabinet’s formation decree along with the premier-designate. 

 

The bloc underlined that its decision to reappoint Hariri stemmed from its commitment to the outcome of the June 7 polls and the country’s need for a national-unity cabinet capable of facing future challenges and securing stability. 

 

Tackling Hariri’s efforts to form a cabinet prior to his resignation last Thursday, the lawmakers praised the Future Movement leader’s attempts to reach an agreement over a national-unity government. “However, unfortunately Hariri’s attempts were hampered by a set of conditions aimed at obstructing the democratic process and confronting the majority’s openness with a blockade,” the statement said. 

 

Hariri stepped down as prime minister-designate on Thursday, accusing the opposition of hampering his efforts to form a cabinet. 

 

Meanwhile, the Development and Liberation bloc headed by Speaker Nabih Berri said on Monday that its members awaited a declaration by Hariri regarding his commitment to the 15-10-5 cabinet formula before nominating him again as premier. 

 

The 15-10-5 structure grants the majority 15 ministers, the opposition 10 and Sleiman 5 seats guaranteeing him the tipping vote. Both the majority and the opposition are respectively denied absolute majority or veto power. 

 

Following their meeting, the bloc issued a statement slamming Hariri’s stance on Sunday, adding that they do not submit to threats and awaited a clear stance by the Future Movement leader. 

 

“Dangerous remarks [by Hariri] clearly mean that he disapproves a national-unity cabinet,” the statement added. 

 

Hariri warned during an iftar on Sunday that he would reciprocate toward any parties that refrained from re-nominating him as premier-designate.  “Whoever wishes to nominate Saad Hariri, let him do, and whoever refrains to do so, I would act with him following my designation like he acted with me prior to it,” he said. 
The Development and Liberation bloc added that Berri along with Sleiman and Jumblatt had urged Hariri not to step down before Monday but their efforts were in vain since the Future Movement leader rushed to resign and voiced remarks rejecting to a national-unity cabinet. 

 

Meanwhile, Berri’s ally, Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) leader MP Michel Aoun said on Monday that MPs should not bound to designate Hariri in order to communicate with him. 

 

“We can have reservations about communicating with Hariri but [as a premier] he can’t have reservations about us,” Aoun said. 

 

Opposition forces have voiced their renewed support for the agreed upon 15-10-5 formula following Hariri’s resignation. 

 

Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt had expressed his explicit commitment to the structure. 

 

Jumblatt has moved recently toward a more centrist position between the opposition and the majority but expressed his full support for Hariri’s task to form a cabinet. 

 

However, March 14 officials stressed that it was up to the new premier-designate to decide upon the continued validity of the 15-10-5 as they stressed the need to resume deliberations on the cabinet issue from scratch while denying attempts to overthrow it. 

 

Tackling the cabinet formula, Future Movement MP Okab Sakr said adoption of the 15-10-5 formula was tied to the opposition’s demands and acceptance of Hariri’s cabinet proposal. 

 

“The majority does not want to impose conditions nor have them imposed on them,” Sakr added. 
Sakr said that if the cabinet lineup submitted by Hariri was rejected, a “political technocrat cabinet, embracing politically affiliated ministers but professionally qualified, may be the last resort.” 

 

Echoing Sakr, Future Movement MP Moustapha Alloush said during an iftar in Tripoli that starting Tuesday, a new phase begins, adding that deliberations would kick off from scratch as compromises made by Hariri during the past period would not re-occur. 

 

Meanwhile, the FPM reiterated its demands on Monday to re-appoint Caretaker Telecommunications Minister Jebran Bassil for another term. 

 

Bassil, Aoun’s son-in-law stressed that each political party is entitled to nominate their own candidates in the next government. 

 

Hariri had reiterated on several occasions his alliance’s opposition to the nomination of candidates who lost in the elections and insisted on the principle of rotating ministerial portfolios among political parties. 

 

Bassil, who ran for one of two seats in his hometown of Batroun, lost to March 14 MPs. 

 

Following talks with President Sleiman, Caretaker Premier Fouad Siniora stressed on Monday the need to form a national-unity cabinet without pre-conditions and to do so on the basis of the outcome of the June 7 polls as well as in accordance with the president and the premier-designate’s constitutional powers. 

 

Siniora said that introducing new conventions to the Lebanese Constitution would not be in any party’s interest, adding that he would nominate Hariri to head the cabinet following his return on Wednesday from Saudi Arabia, where he would perform Omra rituals. 

 

Separately, Hizbullah’s Loyalty to Resistance bloc MP Nawwaf Moussawi emphasized on Monday that coexistence can only survive in Lebanon through consensus and compromises among political parties. 

 

The MP added that defiance would have negative repercussions on all groups.