The cabinet is once again showing signs of division among cabinet members but this time on the $5.9 billion extra-budgetary spending of 2011 that has seen centrists criticizing March 8 majority members for pressuring President Michel Suleiman into signing the bill after parliament failed to approve it.
During a cabinet session held at Baabda palace on Wednesday, the ministers loyal to Hizbullah, Amal and the Free Patriotic Movement exerted pressure on the president to use his constitutional authorities by resorting to article 58 of the constitution which allows him to issue a bill deemed urgent by the government after the failure of the legislature to approve it.
The parliament has failed to approve the bill that is set to legalize the spending of Prime Minister Najib Miqati’s government in 2011 over differences between the March 8 camp and the March 14 opposition.
While Suleiman stressed to the cabinet that he won’t sign the bill for including violations, the ministers of the three major parties argued that the government shouldn’t continue to spend through illegal means.
In remarks to An Nahar daily published Thursday, Hizbullah minister Mohammed Fneish said: “Our stance is that the government shouldn’t paralyze itself. So we suggested a solution that the president use his constitutional authorities and benefit from article 58 to resolve the flaw.”
Fneish told the newspaper that he disagrees with Suleiman that the bill is illegal and could be challenged.
Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi, who is loyal to the FPM, urged the president to sign the bill by claiming that several of his predecessors have resorted to article 58, As Safir daily reported.
Also during the cabinet session, Amal Minister Ali Hassan Khalil and Fneish warned Suleiman that his stance would turn the government into a caretaker.
But ministers loyal to Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblat, who is a centrist, defended the head of the state in his decision.
“Why should we pressure the president into signing on something that is illegal?” Social Affairs Minister Wael Abou Faour asked. “If the government has problems then this is the result of its performance.”
Public Works Minister Ghazi Aridi agreed, saying: “If we want to respect the law, then we should do so through a single standard … particularly after what the president said about the unconstitutionality” of signing the bill.
According to An Nahar, discussions on the issue took around 3 hours although it was proposed from outside the agenda of the cabinet.
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