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Lebanon: Some Parties Demand Adding New Cabinet Portfolios

Jun 14

 Lebanon: Some Parties Demand Adding New Cabinet Portfolios

Disputes among political parties on the size of their representation and their shares in the government are common in Lebanon ahead of any cabinet formation.

There are 22 portfolios in the Lebanese government. The ministries of Finance, Foreign Affairs, Interior and Defense are considered political portfolios. The Public Works and Transportation, Telecommunications, Energy and Water, Social Affairs, Education, Health and Agriculture are considered services portfolios, whereas the other ministries are not of larger importance. They are the Justice, Information, Culture, Youth and Sports, Industry, Labor, Administration Development, Environment, Tourism, Economics and Commerce ministries.

While the cabinet is equally divided between Muslims and Christians, a norm adopted following the Taif Accord approved appointing ministers with no portfolios or to allow the largest political representation among parties. They are called “ministers of state.”

Although some parties have voiced discontent on the growing number of portfolios, head of the Kataeb party MP Sami Gemayel and MPs Nadim Gemayel and Elias Hankash presented on Tuesday two draft laws to Parliament seeking to break up both the Ministry of Public Works and Transport and the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities.

The bill said the transportation sector has not been dealt with seriously due to the multitude of tasks carried out by the ministry’s public works department.

It added that the number of municipalities in Lebanon has surpassed 1,030 making it necessary to separate security and political affairs, and personal status from politics from development projects, the environment and the local economy.

However, legal and constitutional expert former MP Salah Honein told Asharq Al-Awsat there is no need for extra cabinet seats.

He called for forming a 14-member cabinet, which is the case in countries that are ten times bigger in size than Lebanon.

“A minister can be tasked with leading two compatible portfolios, such as the Education and the Culture ministries ... We need to merge existing portfolios and not create new ones,” he said.

aawsat