Instead of responding favorably to one of the popular revolt's basic demands, namely to put an end to the practice of "sharing the pie," the cabinet took the opposite path. One more time, a political agreement was concluded away from the spotlight and the vacant financial and admin-istrative government positions filled on that day (or at least most of these positions) were granted to persons close to the political forces backing the cabinet. Those close to the prime minister tried hard to assure that the latest round of appointments was in line with a law re-cently passed by the parliament, detailing a specific mechanism for filling vacant posts in the public sector.
Sources close to the Serail were quoted by the LBCI channel on Thursday as saying that the council of ministers had complied with the law even before it came into force. The sources said interviews were conducted with all the candidates and the cabinet chose one person from among three nominated for each position.
Former Interior Minister Ziyad Baroud criticized the cabinet move, saying that it appointed topmost civil servants "without waiting for the law, that was recently passed in parliament con-cerning the mechanism of such appointments," to come into effect. Baroud noted during an in-terview with L'Orient le Jour that some of those who were appointed at the cabinet meeting on Wednesday were "competent." He, however, said "it is true" that leaving positions in the public administration and financial agencies vacant was "unacceptable but the procedure should have been respected, especially since the new law provides the same modalities as those provided for in the mechanism approved by the Council of Ministers in 2010."
Karim Bitar, a professor at Saint Joseph’s University in Beirut, deplored the fact that authorities continue to operate "as if nothing has changed since October 17, and as if the country is not ravaged by rampant poverty." He told OLJ that these appointments "threw a harsh light on the fact that the cabinet remains entirely prisoner of the old practices, emphasizing the urgency to break with these practices.
In any case, all the government’s justifications do not seem to convince the protest movement’s activists and academics, who assure that such a behavior is not surprising coming from political parties denounced by the revolution.
"I did not expect the cabinet to take another approach because the parties represented in it work only to protect their interests," Jad Chaaban, an activist and university professor, told OLJ. “This cabinet is the worst. And for good reason: It lied to the people for it was supposed to be a cabinet made up of independents and experts. But it has failed and should resign as soon as possible so that a truly independent cabinet is formed, a cabinet that would draft a new elec-toral law in the run-up to early legislative elections.”
Like Chaaban, Mona Fayad, also an academic and researcher, told OLJ that she was not sur-prised to see the appointments being made in line with the "sharing the pie" principle. “It is normal to see this cabinet serving the interests of its sponsors, including Hezbollah, which has complete control over political decision-making.”
According to Fayad, “it is high time the protest movement understands that it is confronting an authority whose decisions are controlled by Hezbollah.” In this context, she recalled that the Shiite party’s secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah, had set the limits for the protest movement the day after it broke out. “He assured that there was no point bringing down (President) Michel Aoun, much less the cabinet (of the then-prime minister, Saad Hariri, who eventually resigned), and opposed holding early parliamentary elections,” she said.
“Today, the cabinet is Hezbollah’s cabinet, Aoun is still in his position and there is nothing to suggest that legislative elections will be held soon,” Fayad added, calling on the protesters to plead next for the implementation of UN Security Council resolutions, including 1559 (adopted in 2004), to end Hezbollah’s hegemony. But for Bitar, the revolt movement should above all “get out of sterile incantations and transform the hope of change into a broad structured and professional coalition, to build a credible alternative and convince the abstainers to mobilize. This is especially true since traditional leaders will always have a captive electorate. "
(This article was originally published in French in L'Orient-Le Jour on the 12th of June)
As if nothing has changed since the October 17 protests… Upon his appointment in January, Prime Minister Hassan Diab promised he would meet the protesters’ demands, form a govern-ment made up of independent specialists and carry out reforms. On Wednesday, his cabinet dealt a serious blow to the protesters, who could not expect anything different.Instead of responding favorably to one of the...