This Sunday, a new 30-minister government led by Saad Hariri was formed, cobbling together the entire political spectrum except for the Christian Phalangist party that rejected the minister of state portfolio it was offered.
“This is a government of entente,” Hariri said of the new line-up formed barely six weeks after the election of President Michel Aoun. The new portfolios allotted include an anti-corruption post. For the first time, a minister of state for women’s affairs has been appointed in Lebanon where women are ‘unequal and unprotected.’ The appointment of a male – Jean Ogassapian as minster for women’s affairs has drawn flak on the social media. It is astonishing that Lebanon could not find a woman to head the ministry meant for women. There is a long way to go as far as gender equality is concerned in Lebanon!
A couple of years ago, the Human Rights Watch came out with a damning 114-page report: “Unequal and Unprotected: Women’s Rights Under Lebanon’s Religious Personal Status Laws”. The report found that, across all religions, personal status laws erect greater barriers for women than men who wish to terminate unhappy or abusive marriages, initiate divorce proceedings, ensure their rights concerning their children after divorce, or secure pecuniary rights from a former spouse. The laws also violate children’s rights, most significantly the need to consider their best interests in all judicial decisions concerning their welfare.
The new government will have “at the top of its list of priorities to preserve security against the fires ravaging our region,” Hariri told the media.He underlined that the government would act to “preserve our country from the negative consequences of the Syrian crisis”.
It may be recalled that on November 3, former premier Hariri was nominated to form Lebanon’s next government. But the government formation process was seen as likely to be hampered by deep differences with the militant Hezbollah movement. Saad Hariri, 46, is supposedly anti-Syria and a fierce opponent of Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah. It is significant to note that the members of Hezbollah have been accused by an international court of involvement in his father Rafiq Hariri’s 2005 assassination. But politics make strange bedfellows. Saad Hariri was forced to throw his support behind Aoun, the Hezbollah candidate for the presidency. This secured Hariri’s return to power as premier. The new government will have two ministers from Hezbollah. Hariri’s nomination and Aoun’s election after a two-year vacuum have raised new hopes that Lebanon can begin tackling challenges including a not so vibrant economy, a moribund political class and the influx of more than a million unfortunate Syrian refugees. Hariri also announced the setting up of a state secretariat for refugees, and called on the international community “to take responsibility for helping our country bear the burden”.
The minister for combating corruption Nicola Tueni has quite a formidable task at hand as Lebanon is ranked as first in corruption among the Arab nations. According to Transparency International Index, 92 % of the people think that corruption has increased in Lebanon. Twenty six per cent of people think that corruption has increased in Morocco. Lebanon is way ahead of Morocco in corruption!
Lebanon is due to hold parliamentary elections in May 2017. This will be the first legislative vote in eight years. The current parliament was elected in 2009. It has extended its own mandate twice amid fierce disagreements over revamping Lebanon’s electoral law. “The government will also work on the preparation of a new electoral law,” Hariri announced on Sunday.
It will be a test of the political will of Saad Hariri and all the Lebanese political parties to bring out Lebanon from the present challenges and lead towards a stable, peaceful and developing Lebanon.
Saad Hariri’s’s new cabinet and party affiliation:
Prime Minister – Saad Hariri – Future Movement
Deputy Prime Minister & Health Minister – Ghassan Hasbani – Lebanese Forces
Interior Minister – Nuhad al-Mashnuq – Future Movement
Foreign & Expatriates Minister– Gebran Bassil – Free Patriotic Movement (FPM)
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 Movement
Justice Minister – Salim Jreissati – FPM
Economy & Trade Minister – Raed Khoury – FPM
Public Works Minister – Yusuf Fenianos – Marada
Labor Minister – Muhammad Kabbara – Future Movement
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 Movement
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 Movement
Minister of Planning – Michel Pharaon – Independent
Minister of Social Affairs – Pierre Bou Assi – LF
Minister of Women’s Affairs – Jean Ogassapian – Future Movement
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