Fears of Clash between Berri, March 14 after al-Mustaqbal Refuses Parliament to Play Executive Role

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Speaker Nabih Berri and March 14 lawmakers are expected to clash over his efforts to hold a parliamentary session amid a political vacuum caused by the absence of a new government.

“No matter what the opinion of colleagues is, some things need to be discussed,” Berri told An Nahar daily in remarks published Wednesday. He said the issue of prisons and the election of a governor for the Central Bank were among the priorities that necessitated a parliamentary session despite the absence of a cabinet.

However, contacts are underway among March 14 officials to come up with a unified stance against Berri’s move which began on Wednesday with a meeting of parliament’s bureau committee and the administrative and justice committee to hear the opinion of MPs and take the appropriate decision.

During the meeting, MP Ali Hassan Khalil, Berri’s aide, proposed a draft-law to keep Riyad Salameh as Central Bank governor pending the formation of a new government.

MP Michel Moussa, who is also from the speaker’s Development and Liberation bloc, proposed another draft-law that aims at granting amnesty in some cases not linked to major offenses.

Al-Mustaqbal newspaper quoted al-Mustaqbal bloc and other March 14 lawmakers as saying that their alleged unified stance will be based on their “total rejection to overstep the prime minister and the government over issues that they could take decisions on.”

They claimed that Caretaker Premier Saad Hariri’s cabinet is capable of taking decisions on issues such as the appointment of the Central Bank governor “if it wants to.” They did not rule out the possibility for the caretaking government to hold a session if Berri continued to insist on calling for a parliamentary meeting.

“We don’t accept legislation amid the absence of a cabinet in Lebanon,” the MPs said.

Al-Mustaqbal bloc, which is part of the March 14 alliance, met on Wednesday morning and agreed to reject Berri’s attempt to call for a parliamentary session to take executive decisions.

Despite the announcement, al-Liwaa daily said that members of the March 14 forces were divided over the issue. While the tendency of the Lebanese Forces bloc was to reject Berri’s move, Caretaker Minister Butros Harb and head of the administrative committee MP Robert Ghanem will most likely approve the speaker’s initiative.

According to al-Liwaa, it was not yet clear what the stance of the Phalange MPs will be.

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