Nasrallah, Bassil discuss representation of Sunni MPs

Secretary General of the Lebanese Hezbollah resistance movement Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and Free Patriotic Movement leader Gebran Bassil met on Saturday to discuss the representation of six so-called independent Sunni lawmakers as the Arab country is struggling to remove remaining barriers to the formation of a new government.

Nasrallah and Bassil, who is also the acting foreign minister, also exchanged views on the deadlocked government formation process as well as other issues, said a statement from Hezbollah.

According to the statement, both officials said the cabinet needed to have “clear criteria” for the formation of the government.

The country has currently no formula to decide on the number of parliamentary seats for political parties and their future ministerial posts.

Six months after a parliamentary election in Lebanon, a row over Sunni representation has obstructed the formation of a national unity government which is expected to group most of Lebanon’s political parties.

A deal looked close last week when the Christian Lebanese Forces Party ceded ground to President Michel Aoun and his Free Patriotic Movement, sparking a row over Christian representation that had been seen as the main obstacle.

However, Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri has yet to resolve a row over the Sunni representation.

Lebanon is in dire need of a government able to implement the economic reforms that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) says are needed to put its public debt on a sustainable path. Lebanon has the world’s third largest public debt as a proportion of the economy and growth is stagnant.

Lebanon’s first parliamentary vote in nine years was held on May 6, with over 500 candidates vying for seats. Turnout was 49.2 percent, according to officials. Hezbollah and its political allies secured over half the seats.

Hezbollah as well as groups and individuals affiliated to it won at least 67 seats, according to the results cited by politicians and campaigns and reported in Lebanese media.

Hezbollah’s allies include the Amal Movement led by Nabih Berri and the Christian Free Patriotic Movement founded by Aoun.