Nasrallah Calls For New Government to Shield Lebanon from Regional Tensions

Published May 15th, 2018 - 11:29 GMT
Lebanon's Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah (AFP/File Photo)
Lebanon's Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah (AFP/File Photo)

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah called Monday on rival political leaders to cooperate to quickly form a new government following last week’s general elections in order to shield Lebanon from the repercussions of mounting regional tensions.

Nasrallah also said that Nabih Berri would be re-elected smoothly as Parliament speaker next week, adding that there would similarly be no problem over the election of a deputy speaker, a post allotted to a Greek Orthodox lawmaker.

“It is in [Lebanon’s] interest for all of us to cooperate to form a new government – without any delay – that can deliver on its promises,” Nasrallah said in a televised speech commemorating the second anniversary of the death of Hezbollah commander Mustafa Badreddine, who was killed in fighting in Syria in May 2016.

The Hezbollah chief sounded optimistic about the internal political situation, eight days after Lebanon conducted peaceful and smooth legislative elections, the first in nine years. The polls, held under a new proportional voting system for the first time, have resulted in some major blocs losing some parliamentary seats and others increasing their seats.

“The atmosphere in the country is one of cooperation, conciliation and understanding. No one should take the country to conflicts because we are seeing what is happening in the region around us,” Nasrallah said.

His remarks came on the same day Israeli troops killed almost 60 Palestinian protesters on the Gaza border as the United States opened its embassy to Israel in Jerusalem, a move that has fueled Palestinian anger and drawn foreign criticism for undermining peace efforts.

“Some people are busy counting the number of votes and counting the number of blocs. In a few days’ time, we will find out the sizes of [parliamentary] blocs,” Nasrallah said.

The biggest winners from the May 6 polls, marked by a weak voter turnout, are the Free Patriotic Movement, which increased its 21 MPs to 29, including allies, and the Amal Movement-Hezbollah coalition, which along with their allies can muster a bloc of more than 40 MPs, while the Lebanese Forces won 15 seats. The Future Movement lost one-third of the 32-member bloc it had held since 2009, winning 20 parliamentary seats.

Referring to the battle over the speaker’s post, Nasrallah said: “I think the [re-]election of Speaker Nabih Berri is taken for granted and I don’t see a problem over the election of a deputy speaker.”

The FPM has two candidates for the deputy speaker’s post: newly elected MPs Elie Ferzli and Elias Bou Saab.

Boosted by the election win, the LF is also nominating one of three MPs for the deputy speaker’s position: MPs Imad Wakkim, Wehbe Qatisha and Anis Nassar, the Central News Agency reported. Following Berri’s re-election as speaker, Nasrallah said consultations would begin on the formation of a new government. However, he did not say whether Hezbollah would support Prime Minister Saad Hariri for the premiership. “Our position is clear,” he said, without elaborating.

 

 

Hezbollah MPs did not back Hariri when he was named by a majority of lawmakers to form a new government following the election of President Michel Aoun in October 2016.

Nasrallah’s speech came a day after Berri called for a swift formation of “a national unity government” that embraces all the parties to cope with what he called a “terrible” economic situation.

Berri said a Parliament session would be held on May 22 to elect a Parliament speaker, a deputy speaker and members of the legislature’s Secretariat.

Parliament’s four-year mandate, which has been extended three times since 2013, expires on May 20, after which Hariri’s government will resign and serve in a caretaker capacity. Aoun will call for binding consultations with parliamentary blocs to name their candidate for forming the new government.

Berri chaired a farewell session of Parliament’s Secretariat at his Ain al-Tineh residence Monday.

While Berri has said he would support Hariri to form the next government, LF chief Samir Geagea has demanded a political agreement with the prime minister before the LF’s 15 MPs nominate him for the premiership.

“The Strong Republic bloc will not name Prime Minister Saad Hariri for the premiership without a prior political agreement,” Fadi Saad, the LF’s newly elected MP also told the Voice of Lebanon radio station Monday.

Speaking at an LF ceremony at the party’s headquarters in Maarab to celebrate the election win, Geagea pledged that the LF’s parliamentary bloc and ministers would confront what he called the “foxes of deals that are moving in all state administrations with the aim of collecting money here and there, while the people are suffering from the deteriorating financial and economic conditions.”

Meanwhile, the Cabinet is set to meet under Aoun at Baabda Palace at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday to mull over an 83-item agenda, the most important of which is an item that calls for taking necessary measures as soon as possible to rescue the ailing electricity sector.

During its session on April 26, the Cabinet approved a proposal by Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil to revive the country’s electricity sector by deciding to “extend Law 54, which allows the private sector to generate electricity in line with Energy and Finance ministries’ proposals.”

Other items include draft decrees calling for granting licenses to a number of private universities to open branches, including a license for the Greek Orthodox Bishopric to establish a university named “Saint George University in Beirut,” according to an official statement.

Other items deal with Cabinet approval of a number of grants to the Defense Ministry for the benefit of the Lebanese Army and a draft decree to raise the minimum salaries and wages of employees at public water institutions and the National Litani River Authority. The agenda also includes a draft law that seeks to annul the Brevet (grade 9) exams.

 

This article has been adapted from its original source.


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