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Former Lebanese PM to Asharq Al-Awsat: President’s Stance Delays Govt Formation

Former Lebanese PM to Asharq Al-Awsat: President’s Stance Delays Govt Formation

Sunday, 23 September, 2018 - 08:15
Former President Tammam Salam (NNA)
Beirut- Thaer Abbas
The former Lebanese Prime Minister, Tammam Salam, said that path taken by President Michel Aoun does not bode well for the formation of the government, warning against compromising the balances established by the Taif Agreement.

In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Salam noted that the current electoral law "weakened a basic Lebanese team, the Sunni group," warning of some parties’ intentions to push for the three-pronged formula: Sunni, Shiite, and Christian, instead of the currently accepted Christian-Islamic equality.

Salam strongly objected to holding parliamentary sessions while the government hasn’t been formed yet.

He went on to say that adopting the CEDRE laws alone currently is not enough, given that they require the signatures of the President, Prime Minister and relevant ministers.

He added that "CEDRE projects are not just laws that need to be adopted,” especially that they are conditional on Lebanon having clear mechanisms of action and laws that foster full transparency to reassure the international community of the fate of these loans and their ability to make a difference in the Lebanese economy.

Salam described the current situation as a “constitutional precedent”, especially with some parties seeking to modify the work of the constitution as approved in Taif Agreement.

“The most dangerous thing Lebanon is going through now is the hidden attempt to change the rules established by the Lebanese agreement in Taif,” he said.

He considered that Aoun’s actions are not helping in forming the cabinet, which is constitutionally the responsibility of the Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri.

By setting conditions and criteria for the government’s form, President Aoun was not abiding by the Constitution, Salam warned.

Along with former prime ministers Najib Mikati and Fouad Saniora, Salam a joint statement objecting to Aoun’s statements and asserting that it was within the jurisdiction of the prime minister-designate to form the government.

Salam denied reports that the joint statement was issued upon the request of Hariri or anyone else.

He pointed out that before becoming the President, Aoun was part of the opposition and he clearly opposed the ‘President’s share’; however, now things were different.

The President’s share was approved in Doha Agreement in 2008 under exceptional security and political conditions.

Salam called on Aoun to be president of all Lebanese without taking sides.

"The most dangerous thing Aoun team is doing is its continuous pursuit of imposing constitutional precedents that affect the Taif Agreement," he added.

Salam supported the proposal of the Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rai to form a neutral cabinet. "I know that Prime Minister Hariri wants to form a government of national unity, but a neutral government may be an outlet for saving Lebanon from the current impasse," he said.

The dragging cabinet formation process may "weaken the Lebanese situation, and lead to disasters,” Salam cautioned.

Salam indicated that a large part of the delay in the formation is due to reasons relating to quotas and sharing “the spoils in power”.

Yet the main reason, he noted, was externa, with Iran awaiting regional developments to make the decision to facilitate the formation of the government. When Tehran feels the need to use the Lebanese card, it will direct Hezbollah to facilitate the formation process, he added.

"Iran is now playing the Lebanese card among other cards it has,” Salam said, adding that Tehran is apparently waiting on the situation in Syria in light of the Russian-Turkish agreement and the US-Russian role.

Speaking on the electoral law, Salam said that "the current electoral law weakened a basic Lebanese component, the Sunni group, which was one of the biggest losers in this election.”

He explained that the Shiite group had a “tight grip on almost all Shiite seats” and the two stronger Christian parties, Lebanese Patriotic Movement and Lebanese Forces, won the Christian seats, while a Sunni opposition party loyal to March 8 forces had been established.

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