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February 07, 2020
The Government Monitor No. 11 - Diab’s Rescue Government?


What’s the Issue at Hand?
On 21 January, 2020, nearly a month after his appointment, Hassan Diab successfully formed a new cabinet that now awaits the parliament’s vote of confidence. Diab, an independent former minister of education, put together what he described as an “expert” cabinet, distributing 22 ministerial portfolios among 19 ministers. This government has six women, the highest number compared to previous cabinets, and most ministers hold high educational attainment. The “one-colored” government is the first one not to include all six major political parties since the one formed by Najib Mikati in 2011.
 
Political Composition
The seats in the Council of Ministers are distributed as follows:
  • The Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), which leads the largest parliamentary bloc, is the most represented party in the new government with six ministers. Tashnag and the Lebanese Democratic Party (LDP), both members of the FPM-led bloc, hold a total of three ministries, hence giving the bloc one-third of the government, and with it, veto power.
  • Prime Minister (PM) Diab holds five seats, including that of the premiership.
  • Hezbollah, Amal movement, and Marada are represented by two ministers each.
 
Distribution of Portfolios
Ministerial portfolios are distributed as follows:
  • FPM controls three of the five sovereign portfolios (justice, foreign affairs, and national defense), while Amal and the PM handle finance and interior and municipalities respectively.
  • The FPM-led bloc controls also four of the seven services portfolios along with LDP and Tashnag (FPM: Displaced; Tashnag: Youth and sports; LDP: Social affairs and information). Culture, public health, and education and higher education are controlled by Amal, Hezbollah, and the PM, respectively.
  • Diab has two of the four infrastructure portfolios (environment and telecommunication), while Marada controls public works and FPM energy and water.
  • Economic portfolios were distributed equally among political groups: Economy and trade (FPM), agriculture (Amal), industry (Hezbollah), and tourism (Marada).
  • The only remaining state ministry portfolio, administrative reform, is held by the PM.
  • Of the 14 portfolios held by groups that were part of the last government—namely FPM, Amal, Hezbollah, and Marada—11 remain controlled by the same party. And so, FPM kept some of the most important ministries such as foreign affairs, national defense, justice, displaced, energy and water, and economy and trade, while Amal held on to the ministries of finance, culture, and agriculture. Hezbollah still controls the public health portfolio and Marada held on to the public works ministry.
 
 
Why is this Important?
The newly formed government’s main task is to successfully navigate through the financial crisis that the country is facing. Success relies heavily on the monitoring and accountability mechanisms that should shape the government’s efforts. Therefore, understanding the political composition of the cabinet and individual portfolios is essential for the functioning of these mechanisms.
 
 
Background
On 29 October, 2019, Lebanon’s national unity government resigned in response to protesters’ demands, leaving the country in a three month political deadlock. In an effort to address the nationwide protests, Diab was appointed by President Michel Aoun and the parliament to form a cabinet composed of non-partisan experts.





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