BEIRUT - Of the thirty appointees in Lebanon’s new ‘national accord’ cabinet announced Sunday night, just over half (sixteen) are loyalists of President Michel Aoun or Prime Minister Saad Hariri, giving the pair a commanding position in the incoming administration.
Members of Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement were given eight portfolios, including the key Foreign & Expatriates, Defense, Energy & Water, and Justice ministries. Hariri’s Future Movement formally got seven ministries, most notably Interior & Municipalities and Telecommunications. While nominally independent, incoming Minister of State for Planning, Michel Pharaon, is often seen as close to Hariri.
The remaining fourteen seats were distributed to officials representing the Lebanese Forces and Amal Movement (three ministries each); Hezbollah and the Progressive Socialist Party (two each); and Marada, Tashnag, the Lebanese Democratic Party, and the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (one each). A full list of the thirty ministers is provided at the bottom of this article.
While the pro-Western, anti-Damascus parties of what was once known as the March 14 coalition – chiefly Future and the Lebanese Forces – appeared numerically to do well, on balance the cabinet is weighted in favor of factions close to Damascus and Tehran. Of the four so-called ‘sovereign’ portfolios, three went to such factions. The justice ministry, formerly headed by retired police chief and March 14 hawk Ashraf Rifi, will now be handled by Salim Jreissati, a lawyer who has assisted the legal defense of Hezbollah members currently on trial in absentia at The Hague on charges of assassinating former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, the father of PM Saad. The awarding of a portfolio to the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, a staunch Damascus ally with just 2 of the 128 seats in parliament, is a further symbolic indicator of the new government’s overall orientation.
Also of note was the creation of a number of new ministries, including a Refugees’ Affairs portfolio, to be headed by Future’s Muin al-Merebi. The appointment of a male, Jean Ogassapian, to the new post of Women’s Affairs minister was quickly met with scorn on social media.
Speaking shortly after the names were announced Sunday night, Hariri said the cabinet would “immediately address the issues that can be treated during the few months it will last, especially the crises facing the citizens like the waste, electricity and water problems.”
It would also take up as its “first task” the formation of “a new electoral law that takes into account proportional representation and proper representation, to organize parliamentary elections on time in the middle of next year.”
“In this sense, this government can be considered an elections government.”
At the time of writing, the cabinet was not expected to convene until Wednesday, due to several ministerial appointees not being present in the country.
Lebanon’s incoming cabinet:
Prime Minister – Saad Hariri – Future Movement
Deputy Prime Minister & Health Minister – Ghassan Hasbani – Lebanese Forces
Interior Minister – Nuhad al-Mashnuq – Future
Foreign & Expatriates Minister – Gebran Bassil – Free Patriotic Movement
Finance Minister – Ali Hassan Khalil – Amal Movement
Defense Minister – Yaqub Sarraf – FPM
Energy & Water Minister – Cesar Abi Khalil – FPM
Telecommunications Minister – Jamal al-Jarrah – Future
Justice Minister – Salim Jreissati – FPM
Economy & Trade Minister – Raed Khoury – FPM
Public Works Minister – Yusuf Fenianos – Marada
Labor Minister – Muhammad Kabbara – Future
Information Minister – Melhem Riachi – LF
Industry Minister – Hussein Hajj Hassan – Hezbollah
Education & Higher Learning Minister – Marwan Hamade – Progressive Socialist Party
Agriculture Minister – Ghazi Zeaiter – Amal
Environment Minister – Tariq Khatib – FPM
Culture Minister – Ghattas Khoury – Future
Tourism Minister – Avedis Kadanian – Tashnag
Sports & Youth Minister – Muhammad Fneish – Hezbollah
Displaced Persons Minister – Talal Arslan – Lebanese Democratic Party
Minister of Refugee Affairs – Muin al-Merebi – Future
Minister of Planning – Michel Pharaon – Independent
Minister of Social Affairs – Pierre Bou Assi – LF
Minister of Women’s Affairs – Jean Ogassapian – Future
Minister of Human Rights Affairs – Ayman Choucair – PSP
Minister of Presidential Affairs – Pierre Raffoul – FPM
Minister of Parliamentary Council Affairs – Ali Qanso – Syrian Social Nationalist Party
Minister of Administrative Development – Inaya Izz al-Din – Amal
Minister for Combating Corruption – Nicola Tueni – FPM