Lebanese PM-Designate Seeking Govt. of Experts as Hezbollah Shifts Stance
Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Hassan Diab stressed on Monday that he was seeking the formation of a government of experts.
In a tweet, he said: “The new government will represent Lebanon and it will not be one-sided. It will be purely a cabinet of experts.”
His comment contrasted somewhat with statements by Hezbollah’s caretaker minister Mohammed Fneish who called for the formation of a government that enjoys “political cover.”
Throughout the crisis that had erupted with Saad Hariri’s resignation as premier in October, Hezbollah had been demanding the formation of a cabinet of technocrats and experts. This put the party at odds with Hariri, who had demanded the establishment of a government of experts that would be able to address Lebanon’s worst economic crisis since the 1975-90 civil war.
The ongoing disputes between the two sides was among the reasons that prompted Hariri to withdraw his candidacy for the premiership last week that ultimately led to Diab’s appointment.
Sources close to Hezbollah told Asharq Al-Awsat: “What is important is the formation of a government that can save the country. Along with our allies, we will provide all facilitations to make this mission possible.”
Asked why such facilitations were not provided to Hariri, the sources said: “Hariri is a political figure and therefore, he was bound to form a government of politicians or politicians and experts.”
“Diab, on the other hand, is an independent academic figure and therefore, we have to approach him from this angle,” they explained.
Hezbollah’s apparent shift from the demand for a cabinet of technocrats and experts to one with “political cover” drew criticism from MP Samir al-Jisr, of Hariri’s Mustaqbal Movement.
“What appeared to be prohibited for Hariri seems to be acceptable for the PM-designate,” he remarked.
He noted how political forces are facilitating Diab’s mission to form a cabinet, as opposed to Hariri, who was met with objections at every turn.
President Michel Aoun is expected to meet with Diab on Tuesday for further discussions about the form of the government.
Diab had met on Saturday with parliamentary blocs to address the shape of the cabinet.
Ministerial sources close to Aoun told Asharq Al-Awsat that Diab is “leaning towards appointing experts, who will be named by political parties.”
“If they are not members of a political party, then they will definitely be close to this team or that,” they said.
This stance stands in stark contrast with anti-government protests that had poured onto the streets since October 17 have been demanding the overhaul of the entire political class. They have called for the formation of a government of experts, who are not aligned with any of the political parties, which are deeply distrusted by the protesters and are accused of rampant corruption and of leading Lebanon to the brink of collapse.