Tamam Salam (Photo Daily Star).
Lebanon announced a new government on Saturday, breaking a 10-month political deadlock during which spillover violence from neighboring Syria worsened internal instability.
A caretaker government has run the country since former Prime Minister Najib Mikati resigned in March as parties aligned with the Shi'ite Hezbollah movement and a Sunni-led rival bloc pursued a power struggle exacerbated by their support for opposing sides in Syria's almost three-year-old civil war.
"A government in the national interest was formed in a spirit of inclusivity," new Prime Minister Tammam Salam declared on live television.
He said he hoped the new government would allow Lebanon to hold presidential elections before President Michel Suleiman's mandate expires in May and finally conduct parliamentary polls that were postponed last year due to the political impasse.
The March 8 and March 14 coalitions have each been allotted eight seats in the government with the remaining ministerial posts divided among Salam, President Michel Sleiman and Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt.
Prime Minister Tammam Salam, 68, a Sunni from Beirut, comes from a prominent political family and is the son of the late Saeb Salam, a former Lebanese prime minister. He graduated with a degree in economics and management from the U.K. and in 1982 took over as head of the Makassed Philanthropic Islamic Association of Beirut. He was elected MP for Beirut twice, in 1996 and 2009 respectively, and served as culture minister in Fouad Siniora’s 2008-09 cabinet.
Former Energy Minister Gebran Bassil, from the March 8 bloc, becomes foreign minister. Former Health Minister Ali Hassan Khalil, also from March 8, takes the finance portfolio. Nouhad Machnouk, a March 14 legislator, was named interior minister.
Elias Muhanna (blog Qifa Nabki) writes:
There are twenty-three men in the cabinet and one woman.
The two main blocs (March 14 and March 8) are each represented by eight ministers, while the Prime Minister, the President, and Walid Jumblatt control another eight ministers between them, in the so-called “centrist” bloc.
The one-third share for each bloc is designed to prevent passage of any significant legislation by denying quorum to the cabinet. This innovation dates back to the Doha Accord of 2008 and has more or less guaranteed the paralysis of the executive branch ever since.
In addition to the one-third share, it appears that each bloc also has a mole in the centrist bloc, whose sole function is to help bring down the government if one side decides to resign. (A cabinet falls when more than one third of its ministers resign). March 14′s mole is Ramzi Jreij; March 8th’s mole is Abd al-Muttalib Hennawi. In other words, this probably isn’t an 8-8-8 cabinet but a 9-9-6 cabinet. Why both blocs have agreed to keep up appearances is not yet clear.