Tamam Salam Must Submit A Cabinet Proposal or Resign.
October 6, 2013
by Ghassan Karam
The current Mikati care taker cabinet of Lebanon submitted its official resignation on March 22, 2013. Within less than a fortnight Mr. Tamam Salam became the new Prime Minister designate ; just over six months ago. Not much, if anything has happened since except for the obligatory daily references that Mr. Salam is still continuing his consultations. The complete and utter lack of progress in submitting a proposed cabinet to the Lebanese Chamber of deputies suggests that Mr. Salam has failed in his mission to form a cabinet and must resign for the good of the country.
The inability of a PM designate to form a cabinet over a period of six months after he was officially charged with the task represents his failure to perform on the mission that he was entrusted with. It is true that the Lebanese constitution is silent about the time required to form a cabinet , after the official designation is delivered,but common sense and general custom makes it clear that this is not intended to be an open ended process. I am sure that putting in place strict time limits could be seen as introducing unnecessary system rigidity but I am also certain that no constitutional procedure for forming the executive branch of government is ever expected to go on forever. That would be counterproductive on at least two grounds: (1) It takes away from many parties the incentive to be flexible in their demands and (2) it extends the life span of an already failed cabinet whose inability to perform adequately had forced it to resign. Both of the above presents a strong rationale to place a time limit on the time required by a PM designate before he/she is required to submit a cabinet formation for a vote of confidence. I am not sure which of the two above potential results is worse; is it the incentive given to potential major players not to compromise or is it to offer a failed government the right to keep on governing.
Mr. Salam has had more than enough time to enter into serious consultations with each of the 4-6 major political groups represented in the Lebanese parliament and to learn about their demands and abilities to act as productive participants in a cabinet led by him. If six months is not long enough to contact 6 parties then obviously the process is cumbersome, inefficient ,very badly designed and in need of change. No one would expect a major institution, governmental, commercial, not-for-profit or multilateral not to replace its leadership in short order and for that leadership to set in motion as quickly as possible a new vision to replace the outgoing unsatisfactory one so why is Lebanon different?. I am sure that Tamam Salam is a decent, honourable and well meaning person whose only goal is the welfare of the Lebanese people but that is not enough. There comes a point when intentions must be actualized, that is ultimately the only tangible measure and that is what distinguishes one person from another.
Mr. Salam has a moral obligation to come clean with the Lebanese public after having spent six months in pursuit of the elusive goal of putting together the best group of people that would help him bring to fruition his goal of an effective and capable cabinet. How can it be possible that he could not find 10-30 competent Lebanese nationals who would be privileged to serve their fellow countrymen overcome the major challenges that the state is facing. Mr. Salam must let us know in simple and clear terms why he has not been able to fulfill his task? The argument that he does not see his task as that of forming a cabinet of the most qualified but as a cabinet that satisfies the whimsical demands of the selfish, vain and unpatriotic political leaders does not carry any moral and ethical weight, actually it is to be rejected on these grounds.
Tamam Salam or any PM designate for that matter is expected to serve to the best of his ability the greater good and not to submit to the blackmail of the political establishment. If a group of parliamentarians are given the chance to play an active productive role but they decline then so be it. The PM designate should then move to the next best alternative instead of continuously attempting the square a circle made of non malleable matter. The prime duty of a PM designate is cabinet formation within a reasonably short period of time that must not exceed 6-8 weeks. The worst that can happen is to submit a cabinet proposal and have it voted down by the Chamber. If the Chamber is to vote down repeatedly an honourable and competent proposed cabinet then the burden of obstructionism would have been shifted to the Chamber and consequently to the voters who have elected them.
Mr. Salam has no choice but to submit a proposed cabinet for the sake of his own personal integrity and for the integrity of the political system. It is clear that many are very glad to allow the present ineffective system persist, maybe that has been their primary motivation all along. Mr. Salam can also short circuit that effort by proposing a cabinet that I am certain he has been ready to propose for maybe the last 5 months.