Lebanon’s designated PM Tammam Salam announced over the weekend a new 24-member “national interest” cabinet following eleven months of political deadlock and bickering between the country’s rival March 8 and March 14 coalitions, daily Annahar reported. The new government will likely have a very short mandate to organise the presidential elections by May 25, approves the long-awaited decrees streamlining the gas and oil exploration tenders and legalising the expected USD 2.5bn worth of Eurobond issues to help meet the budget needs and maturing debt in 2014.
The new government is a large national compromise that culminated months of behind-the-scene negations both domestically and regionally. The March 14 alliance, which is affiliated to Saudi Arabia, needed the government to strengthen its position in the ruling coalition while the March 8 coalition, led by Hizbollah and strongly affiliated to Iran and Syria, needed a breakthrough to stabilise the domestic situation amid Hizbollah’s military involvement in Syria. Both camps, thus, were forced to make major compromises.
PM Salam said his government will seek to bolster national security, confront terrorism and hold the presidential election on time. The current president Michel Sleiman’s six-year term in office expires on May 25. The government also faces tough political, security and economic challenges, including how to cope with the more than one million Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
Sixty-eight-year old Salam was appointed on April 6, 2013, following the resignation of former PM Najib Mikati’s government.
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