Wednesday, February 19, 2014

So is the new cabinet 8-8-8 or 9-8-7?

[Originally posted at NOW]

Depending on who you talk to and what you read, Lebanon’s new cabinet is either an exact three-way divide between the March 14, March 8 and ostensibly “centrist” blocs, or it apportions each of them nine, eight, and seven ministers, respectively.

AFP, for instance, reported that the 24-member cabinet comprised three equal blocs of eight ministers. However, one leading local paper, which originally said the same, subsequently published a correction to the effect that one of the “centrists” was in fact part of March 14’s share, thus giving March 14 nine ministers and March 8 eight, leaving only seven “centrists.” Another local paper in some cases refers to an “equally divided” cabinet and in others implies March 14 has nine ministries.

The confusion stems from the question of incoming Information Minister Ramzi Jreij, who is either the third minister for March 14’s Kataeb Party or the third “centrist” among President Suleiman’s allotment. Initially, it was reported that Jreij’s known sympathies for the Kataeb were going to be politely overlooked, and were not be perceived as membership of their cabinet share per se. The party, however, later officially claimed him as their own, and he in turn declared himself an “ally and friend” of theirs.

For all intents and purposes, then, March 14 has a ninth minister. Why nobody in March 8 is crying foul over this is mysterious, though one suspects the answer won’t take long to emerge.

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