Lebanon’s Bassil Calls for Christian Meeting on Sectarian Quota in Hiring State Employees
President Michel Aoun’s letter to Speaker Nabih Berri to clarify Article 95 of the Constitution on the sectarian quota system in public institutions has sparked debate in Lebanon.
Paragraph B of Article 95 stipulates the creation of a national committee to eliminate sectarianism in state institutions, including the judiciary, military and security institutions, expect for Grade One posts, which shall be distributed equally between Christians and Muslims without reserving any particular job for any sectarian group. Hiring should be based on competence and experience.
The stances of Aoun’s son-in-law and head of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil, contradict with the stipulations of the article. The minister is demanding that the sectarian quota system be applied in all public positions “in order to preserve diversity”.
Moreover, Bassil announced last month the need to delete Article 80 of the State Budget.
The article calls for the employment of applicants for state positions, who have passed the Civil Service Board exams, but were not yet hired due to political disputes over sectarian imbalance.
The dispute on the sectarian quota system in public institutions emerged in wake of a decision to freeze the employment of candidates due to the imbalance between Christian and Muslim applicants.
Berri has scheduled a parliament session for October 17 to discuss Aoun’s letter.
Bassil, meanwhile, called for a meeting of Christian leaders at the Maronite Patriarchate in Bkirki to garner as much support as possible for his explanation of the article before the parliament session.
Christian rivals of the FPM expressed concern over Bassil’s move. March 14 General Secretariat coordinator Fares Souaid said the minister was rallying Christians to support his interpretation of Article 95.
The only Christian meeting that should be held must assess Aoun’s tenure as president “before it is too late,” he tweeted.
Meanwhile, a source from Bassil’s Strong Lebanon parliamentary bloc told Asharq Al-Awsat that the minister called for the Bkirki meeting at Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi’s request.
Rahi had held talks on Article 95 with Aoun at his Beiteddine summer residence on Wednesday.
Souaid told Asharq Al-Awsat that Christians in Lebanon are not seeking a political or non-political dispute with other parties.
“They do not need to create problems to compensate for losses. Bassil’s actions will not lead to any results,” he said. “Any attempt to interpret Article 95 will lead to an open confrontation and severe divide between Muslims and Christians.”