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Alex Rowell

Aoun, Hariri sweep half of new Lebanese cabinet

New 30-member government announced Sunday will prioritize next year’s elections, says Prime Minister Saad Hariri

Lebanese President Michel Aoun (L) meets with his newly appointed Prime Minister Saad Hariri at the presidential palace in Baabda, east of Beirut, following the latter’s nomination on November 3, 2016

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 

Between them, President Aoun and Prime Minister Hariri will control more than half the new cabinet’s portfolios (AFP/Anwar Amro)

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