BEIRUT: Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah said Saturday that if the demand by six Sunni MPs from outside the Future Movement to receive Cabinet representation is not met, the government formation process will have to begin again from scratch.
“If they will not be represented,” Nasrallah said in televised remarks, “we should start all over again.”
“We will continue to support the demands of the Sunni MPs for one year, two years, forever – we do not abandon our allies.”
Last week, just as the government’s formation seemed imminent, the demand for representation by the MPs resurfaced. While they have been supported in their call by Hezbollah and the Amal Movement, they have met with opposition from Future Movement leader Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri and President Michel Aoun.
On Saturday, Nasrallah called on Hariri to discuss the MPs’ demands with them.
“Only when the six MPs call us [Hezbollah] and tell us, ‘You may give the names of your ministers [to Hariri],’ then we will,” Nasrallah said.
The secretary-general also clarified that he had not said Aoun should find a solution to the issue of the MPs’ representation, as “the solution is with the prime minister-designate.”
If you look at the results of the May parliamentary elections, Nasrallah said, the six MPs represent a large segment of the Lebanese society, primarily the March 8 Sunnis, or those Sunnis who oppose to the Future Movement.
He said that in refusing to grant the “independent” Sunnis a ministerial post, Future was attempting to monopolize Sunni Cabinet representation.
The secretary-general went on to say that Hezbollah should not at all be accused of hindering the government’s formation.
“It took the Progressive Socialist Party and the Lebanese Forces four and five months to solve the issue of their representation in the upcoming government.” He suggested that Hezbollah’s allies should therefore also have five months to iron out their representation.
He also noted that the “independent” Sunni MPs’ demands are not new, but rather have been discussed with Hariri since the first month of the formation deadlock – which is now in its sixth month.
“Everyone is saying the Sunni MPs obstacle is ‘made up’ but that is not true, as we have been demanding [their representation] for five months now,” Nasrallah added.
“If we wanted to hinder government formation, we would have from the start,” Nasrallah added.
Nasrallah also reiterated the demand for clear criteria as to how many ministers each parliamentary bloc should get in the future government.
“According to the PSP and LF criteria [which had allocated a minister for every three MPs], [Hezbollah] should have demanded 10 ministers, and conceded to accept eight, but not six ministers,” Nasrallah said.
But he said both Hezbollah and its ally the Amal Movement have accepted their ministerial shares as “the economic situation does not allow hindering the government’s formation.”
Nasrallah went on to address the rumors that have been raised about his party’s demand of the Sunni MPs’ representation.
First, he rejected the idea that Hezbollah has supported the “independent” Sunni MPs as a way of preventing Aoun and the Free Patriotic Movement, which he founded, from acquiring the “vetoing third” in Cabinet. “The president is our ally,” he said.
The veto power, which is often used by political rivals to influence or prevent major Cabinet decisions, requires the votes of a third of the 30-member government plus one – or 11 ministers.
Second, Nasrallah also denied there has been foreign interference in the formation process – specifically by Iran, in response to remarks made by PSP leader Walid Joumblatt.
In remarks published Friday by local daily Al-Joumhouria, Joumblatt said Hezbollah’s demand for the Sunni MPs to be represented in the government was Iran and Hezbollah’s reaction to sanctions the U.S. had recently re-imposed on Iran, and was their excuse to make the Lebanese government formation “a card in the Iranian-American conflict.”
Nasrallah insisted instead that the six “independent” Sunni MPs simply “represent a big portion of the Lebanese society, and they must be represented. Iran has nothing to do with this.”