Naharnet

Opposition-Majority Deal to Legalize Controversial Draft Laws

The official resignation of Labor Minister Charbel Nahhas on Wednesday was accompanied by signs of a political settlement reached between the top leaders that would witness a March 14 support for a draft law on the transportation allowance in return for a drop of March 8 majority demands to see records of billions of dollars spent by the governments of former Premiers Fouad Saniora and Saad Hariri.

President Michel Suleiman and Prime Minister Najib Miqati accepted the resignation of Nahhas who had been refusing to sign a transportation allowance decree linked with a wage hike made by the cabinet.

Nahhas had placed his resignation under the care of Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun, who is part of the March 8 coalition, so that in his turn he would decide on the right step.

Beirut newspapers hinted Thursday that a deal was struck between top officials for Aoun to submit Nahhas’ resignation to Miqati in return for garnering a parliamentary support for the transportation allowance draft law proposed by MP Ibrahim Kanaan from Aoun’s Change and Reform bloc and for a $5.9 billion 2011 spending bill that would legalize spending by the government above 2005 levels.

In return for the support of the March 14 opposition and the March 8 majority for both bills, parliament would also settle the controversial $11 billion spending that the cabinets of Saniora and Hariri had made above the budget ceiling between 2006 and 2010, the dailies said.

Aoun’s bloc has accused both former premiers, who are part of the March 14 alliance, of corruption and asked to see the accounting records of the $11 billion spent.

Saniora, who is currently the head of the opposition al-Mustaqbal bloc, informed Speaker Nabih Berri and Miqati on Wednesday about his bloc’s readiness to trade support for the transportation allowance draft law and the $5.9 billion spending bill for the agreement of the Change and Reform bloc to drop its demands on the $11 billion records.

Saniora’s proposal was the reason behind the postponement of the discussion of the transportation draft law to Thursday. Parliament had convened on Wednesday with the aim of voting on it.

Despite the alleged deal struck between the bickering March 8 and 14 forces, informed sources have expressed fear of lack of quorum at the parliamentary session.

The presence of Aoun and MPs Suleiman Franjieh, Talal Arslan and Walid Jumblat is necessary, they said.


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