Lebanon News

Separating Cabinet from Parliament posts to be determined

Official sources say that President Michel Aoun’s speech Wednesday calling for the separation of Cabinet and Parliament is not a new stance by the country’s leader. Speaking in Jbeil earlier this week, Aoun reiterated a stance he had taken when he was previously head of the Change and Reform bloc and proposed a draft law calling for ministers not to run as MPs.

But sources did not say whether this proposal needs a constitutional amendment, because the constitution does not stipulate that a person cannot be a minister and an MP at the same time. However, the sources say that the implementation of such a formula requires a law or a clear commitment by all the political parties to abide by this and up until now, nothing of this nature has formulated.

Aoun also previously proposed that a candidate who loses in the parliamentary elections will not be appointed a minister. This has not been implemented since Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil was appointed as a minister for the first time, after his failure to win in the 2009 elections.

The question that remains to be answered is whether the tradition the Free Patriotic Movement currently has where none of their ministers are also MPs will be broken if Bassil is elected as an MP in the upcoming parliamentary polls and stays on as a minister.

Meanwhile, FPM MP Alain Aoun told The Daily Star that “separation between the roles of MP and ministers is not enough, as ministers must also be prevented from running for [parliamentary] elections.” This is what Hezbollah did when Secretary-General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah announced that his party was separating its candidates from Parliament and ministries.

For this reason, Youth and Sports Minister Mohammad Fneish has not been nominated as a candidate for Parliament because the party will nominate him for the post of minister.

On the other hand, the leadership of the FPM “stresses that the lack of commitment by political parties to abide by this principle will make the FPM free to commit to it, especially when it is time to negotiate heated topic of assuming key or sovereign ministries.”

It is widely known that Hezbollah has again committed to separate the MPs from ministers and so have the Lebanese Forces. The FPM is awaiting the results of the elections as to whether it will continue its previous commitment.

In the eyes of legal expert and former MP Salah Honein, the separation of MPs from ministries allows for transparency and the facilitation of monitoring the government’s work and the possibility of holding it accountable.

“If the MP wants to be a minister, he may be tempted to use the ministry’s platform to strengthen his parliamentary position,” Honein said. “If the matter is to separate the two positions, it will not pave the way for MPs to use their position in the ministry to their personal advantage.”

Honein says he believes that in the end “the issue is represented by every MP and minister and how much respect he has for his position and his conscience.” But there have been ministers who were MPs in the past who have performed their tasks in the best possible manner.

As a result, this matter is on the table, but it has not yet been decided as the wait continues for a new Parliament and ability to form a new government after.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 21, 2018, on page 2.

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