Lebanon: Aoun Bargains with Interior, Finance Ministries to Keep Control Over Energy

Lebanese President Michel Aoun is responsible for the delay in the formation of the new government, Lebanese political sources told Asharq Al-Awsat.

The president’s first priority, according to the sources, is to bring back his son-in-law, former Minister and MP Gebran Bassil, to the forefront, and to reserve the largest number of ministerial seats for his Christian bloc, including the ministry of Energy.

The political sources revealed that the General Security chief, Major General Abbas Ibrahim, has been working behind the scene to resolve the nodes that are hindering the cabinet formation. Ibrahim has recently met with Aoun, who informed him that he favored a government of 24 specialists of political background, “to facilitate the implementation of reforms.”

According to the sources, Aoun supports, in one way or another, Bassil’s request to implement rotation in the redistribution of portfolios to the different sects. They said he suggested that the financial and the interior ministries be the share of the Christians, in exchange for assigning the defense and foreign ministries to the Muslims.

The same sources explained that Aoun wanted to convey a message that the Shiites’ insistence on preserving the finance portfolio – which grants them the authority to sign the decrees of a financial nature – does not give them the right to veto the redistribution of ministerial portfolios.

In other words, Aoun – according to these sources – absolutely refuses any party to use the right of veto to prevent the allocation of the ministry of Energy to a Christian minister. The president considers the energy as an exclusive right to his political party, led by Bassil.

Therefore, the sources said Aoun was bargaining with the Interior and Finance ministries, in exchange for maintaining the energy within his share.

Moreover, the president’s insistence on forming an expanded government was aimed at bringing Bassil to the forefront, in light of the rejection of the Lebanese Forces and the Kataeb party to participate in the government, according to the sources.

However, Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib would not approve a cabinet of 24 ministers and insisted on excluding Bassil from his ongoing talks with Aoun.

Adib is also working to prepare a draft ministerial lineup that he would present to the Baabda Palace at the end of this week.

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