Will Lebanon See The Formation of A New Government Any Time Soon?

Since the appointment of Hassan Diab as the new Prime Minister of Lebanon in December 2019, promises of a “very-soon” and “pre-new-year” government have been many.

Obviously though, the new year is already here and PM Diab has not yet unpocketed the promised cabinet that is supposed to save Lebanon from disaster. 

Every now and then, for about a month now, a Lebanese politician or prominent authority figure is reported saying that the formation of the government is almost done.

On Friday, for example, President Aoun said in a statement that ‘he hoped a new government would be formed next week,’ according to the New York Times.

On Saturday, the caretaker Minister of Finance reportedly said in a speech that we are “just around the corner from the announcement of the government.”

Judging by the time it’s taking, clearly, something has been holding back and delaying that announcement.

And although it is, naturally as is everything else in Lebanon, a very complicated issue that cannot be compressed into a single answer, some dot-connecting can be done to come to a plausible conclusion as to why no Lebanese government has been born yet.

The new cabinet will supposedly be a miniature and technocratic one; constituted of only 18 ministers, instead of the usual 30. That is PM Diab’s vision of it at least.

The March 8 Alliance, on the other hand, disagrees with that vision and its members have shared with Diab their preference to have a techno-political government of 24 ministers instead.

This is, of course, only a single point of disagreement out of the several that are keeping progress towards formation stagnant.

Hassan Diab himself, for instance, is one of these points. On the other side of the debate, on the tables of the active members of “March 14” – mostly the representatives of the Sunni sect – Diab is simply not acceptable to head any upcoming government in Lebanon.

It seems that getting back the former Prime Minister Saad Hariri is the only way to please that side of the debate.

Moreover, not only is Diab a name that is out of the question for some parties and politicians, but so are some of the supposedly neutral names that he has put forth to hold certain ministries.

The sectarian nature of the Lebanese political system requires the mutual approval of all the sects when it comes to the distribution of ministries during the process of government formation. The government currently in the works is apparently no different.

According to Al-Akhbar, PM Hassan Diab has proposed multiple names to be assigned as ministers, only for these names to be met with rejection from one party/sect or another.

One example of this is Diab’s proposition of a retired officer from the north to be the Minister of Interior being rejected by President Michel Aoun.

Furthermore, his proposal to give Shadi Musaad the Defense Ministry was also turned down, and so was that of Wassim Mansouri for the Finance Ministry, to give a few examples.

Another point to note is something that has been said many times since the nomination of Hassan Diab right before the binding parliamentary consultations took place last month.

That is the claim that Diab’s government will not gain the trust and/or recognition of the international community due to it being “unicolored.”

The fact that Hezbollah and its allies were dominant in terms of votes during the consultations caused the United States to disapprove of the results of these consultations.

This intervention, as per various reports and analyses, has formed another major obstacle in the face of the formation.

Additionally, it is also important to mention where the people on the streets stand in all this.

While part of the protesters has decided to give Diab a chance to prove his effectiveness in putting Lebanon back under control, most deemed him untrustworthy due to his participation in the Lebanese government in the past.

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This, added to the aforementioned ongoing disagreement on names, the insistence of some parties to bring down Hassan Diab and replace him with Saad Hariri, the power of the US, and the debate regarding the nature and size of the cabinet, represents a significant factor when it comes to delaying the birth of a fresh government.

Nevertheless, it seems that this birth is finally close to happening; allegedly (hopefully) by the end of the current week.

What form, nature, and size the government will have, however, and what reactions it will cause among the many different parties of Lebanon when it is ultimately announced, are not yet entirely clear. 

What matters the most in this is the priority of that government.

Will it satisfy the demands of the protesters who, not to forget, are the main reason behind this need to bring forth a fresh, clean, and capable government of experts?

As the famous words go: “No one knows.”

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