A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Salam Finally Forms Lebanon's New Cabinet

One thing that happened over the holiday weekend that I probably should mention: after more than ten months since he was designated as Lebanon's Prime Minister, Tammam Salam finally formed a Cabinet.

As has been the case since the 2008 Doha Accord, the 24-person Cabinet (23 men, one woman) is divided three ways, with eight members from the conservative March 14 bloc, eight from the March 8 bloc (which includes Hizbullah), and eight "centrists" selected by the President, the Prime Minister, and Walid Jumblatt. This formula, which makes it difficult to reach decisions since any of the three blocs can prevent a quorum, is one reason Lebanon can go 10 months without a Cabinet: the system has deadlock and paralysis built in, so the absence of a Cabinet makes things only slightly worse; but the growing wave of bombings and the burden of refugees flowing in from Syria has exacerbated the situation in recent months.

Qifa Nabki (Elias Muhanna) offers a useful analysis of his own reading of the new Cabinet, including speculation about March 8 and March 14 "moles" in the centrist bloc.He also provides this useful table of who's who, which I hope he won't mind me posting here:


Meanwhile, Karl Sharro (Karl ReMarks) offers a tongue-in-cheek guide to making a Lebanese government, which actually explains it fairly well. You should read it all.

Given the long wait for the new government, I am also reminded of this Sharro cartoon from last summer, "The Phoenicians invent Government":

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