Elections, Lebanon

Pro Rata-Ra-Ta-Ta Representation

grandserailLet’s have a look at the question of cabinet formation, post-June 7. When all the votes are counted and a victor is declared, the choice of a prime minister and the composition of the cabinet will be the next items on the agenda (after the fistfights and neighborhood gloat-bys, of course.)

I met recently with Ghassan Moukheiber, an opposition MP in the Change & Reform Bloc. He seemed optimistic that the distribution of seats in the next cabinet would be executed on a pro rata basis, i.e. that ministerial portfolios would be allocated based on the proportion of seats won by each party in parliament. Of course, this depends on who wins. March 14, as we know, has not promised to grant the opposition even a basic blocking third, let alone a pro rata share. And while March 8 has promised to form a power-sharing government (with a veto-wielding cabinet minority), they could do that to the tune of a blocking third rather than full-fledged pro rata representation.

Why does this matter, one way or the other? A veto is a veto, right? Not really. Over burgers at DT, Moukheiber also suggested that “on issue politics, we may see a reshuffling of majorities and minorities after the election. On financial and economic issues, for example, Change & Reform is more in line with the Future Movement than with Jumblatt and Hizbullah. On structural and confessional issues, we are probably more in line with the Lebanese Forces.”

In this context, the question of balance within the cabinet becomes important, and may make a difference on legislative fights where one or both coalitions are divided on a specific issue. Let’s say, for example, that the opposition wins the election, 68-60. With 53% of the parliament, they would then be entitled to 16 spots in a 30-member cabinet (if pro rata representation is used), and not the 19 they would command in a one-third-plus-one formula. Those three extra seats that would go to M14 parties could make a difference in helping to build opposition to legislation on a case by case basis (or, theoretically, even a supermajority, for issues of major “national significance”).

Does this make sense? Someone tell me if I’m completely wrong here.wordpress stats

Discussion

20 thoughts on “Pro Rata-Ra-Ta-Ta Representation

  1. First off, in my experience, cabinet formation in Lebanon has always been subject to surprises. It’s never been what one would sanely project.

    Secondly, I’m inclined to believe that in an M8 government, Future is not going to participate. I know I’ve stated previously that Hariri’s declared intention not to participate was an electioneering ploy. But of late I’ve been convinced they would rather sit it out (and cross their fingers and hope the M8 government will fail). So I doubt the pro-rata system will be implemented. I think you’ll end up with a cabinet made up of M8, the president’s share, and quite possibly the Jumblatt posse.

    Thirdly, way to feed my cynicism. So Moukheiber is basically saying privatisation is still on, and you can kiss proportional voting goodbye. So much for change. I’m still holding on to reform though. I’m hoping the FPM launch investigations into all the corruption and mismanagement (if only out of spite) of the previous years, which might segue a more rational state apparatus.

    Finally, I was really hoping you would post on Al-Akhbar’s transcript of Jumblatt’s sit down with the mashayikh. So much to play with there.

    Posted by RedLeb | May 29, 2009, 1:39 am
  2. We cannot predict how it will play regarding the eventual government formation and the voting pattern in Parliament. I don’t think that Hizbullah and co. will let Hariri sit it out as his father has done in 1998-2000 and then blame the failures and the horrendous economic situation on them. It’s been mentioned that Berri, Junblat and Miqati will form a centrist bloc “aligned” with the President.

    I am not surprised by what Ghassan Moukheiber said to you. He might blame it on the beef! Back in 2005, the late Joseph Samaha lambasted the FPM on the economic paper they put forward. Nothing distinguishes it from what Hariri and co. believe in. They had to retract.

    I am not impressed by either their economic ideas or political outlook. They are working for what we might call: Orange sectarianism!

    Posted by Jihad | May 29, 2009, 1:54 am
  3. No one can tell. It’s been mentioned that Berri, Junblat and Miqati might offer the President his centrist bloc. Hizbullah and co. should let Saad Hariri sit it in as his father has done in 1998-2000 in order to blame the horrendous economic situation on them.

    As for what Ghassan Moukheiber has said, I am not surprised. Back in 2005, the late Joseph Samaha has lambasted them for the economic paper the put forward. They had to retract. Politically, are we facing an Orange sectarianism?

    Posted by Jihad | May 29, 2009, 2:02 am
  4. To what extent does a given member of the cabinet actually influence politics in Lebanon? In other words, is the economic policy determined more by the finance minister, by the cabinet as a whole, or by the parliament as a whole? Same with justice, culture, transport etc.

    Posted by Abraham Rotsapsky | May 29, 2009, 7:20 am
  5. It looks like Moukhaiber doesn’t know what he is talking unless you read between the lines. So let’s read between the lines. What is he talking about? He is talking to the voters in a last ditch electioneering blitz to allay their fears. How’s that? First on the economic issue he is catering to Future (Hariri) line. That is laughable. Granting him the huge assumption of winning, it is up to Aoun to find the money. Saad (SA, Gulf, USA, others) will not be interested in bankrolling Aoun’s hysterical appetite to rule over Lebanon while allying with Iran’s proxy. So may be Aoun can prod HN to get some money from Iran provided oil prices go up a little so next Iranian Government can afford the luxury of providing handouts to its new western front, provided Ahmedinejjad wins in the election (very likely), and provided Iranian government would be interested in handing its purse in Lebanon to other than HN. So an Aoun win means no money, no honey, and no funny.

    The confessional issue is quite obvious because he is not in line with the LF. LF supports Taif clearly whereas Aoun does not. So this too is an electioneering blitz. He is saying to the voters: we and the LF are the same on this issue so why not vote for us?

    I thought for a seasoned politician he should do better than saying something so obvious that can be easily refuted. As for his big assumption, Al-Habr recently gave Beirut 1, Maten and most of Zahle to M14. If true that is enough to give M14 and independents (who can spring up in Jbeil and Baabda reducing Aoun’s representation) more than 70 seats.

    No matter who wins, the next government doesn’t have to be 30 ministers and the ministers themselves don’t have to be MP’s. They could come from outside Parliament. Also it could be a government of technocrats. The main issue is to get a PM nominated by majority MP’s and then he succeeds in forming a government and win the vote of confidence. The issue of the blocking veto in the executive branch will end on June 7, because it is not constitutional. FM will not participate in the next government if M14 loses as Saad made it clear, and he doesn’t want a blocking veto for his party or his allies either. It is not required for the government to conduct its executive jurisdiction based on this 2/3 formula. It is only required to have a 2/3 vote in Parliament on issues that the government submits for deliberation that are considered of ‘National Importance’. Constitutional law experts know and can define exactly what these issues of ‘National Importance’ are. The executive blocking third veto is an innovation that had to be agreed upon temporarily for the reasons that have become well known. So there will be no blocking third in the next Government, rest assured. But there could be a centrist block allied with the President which may sway the vote and be the deciding factor in making executive decision, thus reclaiming some of the President’s previous powers but still in agreement with the Taif accord. The thing that needs to be looked after carefully post election day is the Parliament which needs to become Democratically functional as a forum for debating national issues and keeping the Government under control. Therefore, the Speaker must also be help accountable if he fails to fulfill his duties. It should also be up to the President to take over those responsibilities if a repeat of Berri’s behavior of shutting down the last Parliament haphazardly in contravention of known norms of Democratic conduct transpires.

    Posted by majid | May 29, 2009, 8:29 am
  6. Sorry for the couple errors (typos)in the above comment. They are so obvious, I’ll not bother correcting them. It is too late and too bad you cannot review before submitting.

    Posted by majid | May 29, 2009, 8:39 am
  7. RedLeb

    2. I agree with you about Future. It’s looking increasingly likely that Saad will stay out of the gov, and it would be a wise move on his part, politically speaking (the first in a while).

    3. Privatisation is definitely on for the FPM, no doubt about it. They’re also in favor of proportional representation. As for corruption, what Moukheiber basically suggested to me was that the most that might be done would be “forensic investigation”… i.e. investigating past instances of corruption not to punish people but to find ways to fix the system such that corruption is easier to prevent.

    4. Didn’t see the transcript; could you link?

    5. Want to get a drink tonight? 🙂

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | May 29, 2009, 5:40 pm
  8. Jihad

    You’re right about orange sectarianism, I think. The FPM, for all of its secular rhetoric, remains a Christian party that historically coalesced around “the discourse of the disenfranchised”, among other things.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | May 29, 2009, 5:43 pm
  9. Abraham

    First of all, power is distributed in a lop-sided fashion in the Lebanese govt. The executive branch is far more powerful than the legislative one. In that context, members of the cabinet actually do have significant power within their particular domains. And certain ministers/ministries are more dominant than others.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | May 29, 2009, 5:49 pm
  10. Majid

    Al-Habr is the only pollster out of the big four who has given preference to M14 in the swing districts. Everyone else is predicting slight to strong preference for M8. I’m not saying that he is wrong, but you have to consider the entire picture.

    I completely agree with you about the parliament issue (making it fuctional), and so does Moukheiber, incidentally.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | May 29, 2009, 5:53 pm
  11. Comment previous to last made by QN about Parliament and Government powers is incorrect.

    The Parliament creates the Government through the process of nominating the PM and granting the vote of confidence. Furthermore, a properly run Parliament keeps Government under control since the Government needs to table its decisions to the Parliament for review before publishing. Finally, the Parliament has the authority to dissolve the Government by the same method it was created, i.e. through a vote of no-confidence.

    Shutting down the Parliament is a Democratic heresy that should be legislated as a punishable offence against the State. It is perhaps the closest you can come to committing an act of treason, since you are basically violating the basic fundamentals upon which the State is founded. Here, the role of the Judiciary may become relevant as the third separate authority that is required for the proper functioning of the State.

    There were several objectives behind shutting down the Parliament in the last three years. First objective was to create an environment of mob regime with the hope of bringing down the Government through public pressure. Second objective was to portray the Government as incapable of governing which would be a forgone conclusion once you eliminate the legislative branch from the process. When these two objectives failed to materialize, the issue of pushing the blocking veto to Government decision making was the only face saving formula for the obstructionists to claim some sort of victory to their non-democratic attempts to rule the country.

    Finally, the next Government may get the mandate to govern, but it may not get any mandate to make any changes particularly on the constitutional level. This is one of the areas where National Importance 2/3 vote requirement is obviously relevant. No block will be abele to achieve a 2/3 majority MP’s. So while I don’t understand what this proportional representation means, it may require the 2/3 vote in parliament to approve. This is particularly so, if we’re talking here about parliamentary sectarian representation of 1/3, 1/3, 1/3. If it means proportional representation on the Government level, there is always ways to bring in ministers from different communities that would represent the ethnic groups and be acceptable to Parliament at the same time.

    Posted by majid | May 29, 2009, 9:59 pm
  12. Sorry QN. I made the same typo error in the e-mail box.

    Comment previous to last made by QN about Parliament and Government powers is incorrect.

    The Parliament creates the Government through the process of nominating the PM and granting the vote of confidence. Furthermore, a properly run Parliament keeps Government under control since the Government needs to table its decisions to the Parliament for review before publishing. Finally, the Parliament has the authority to dissolve the Government by the same method it was created, i.e. through a vote of no-confidence.

    Shutting down the Parliament is a Democratic heresy that should be legislated as a punishable offence against the State. It is perhaps the closest you can come to committing an act of treason, since you are basically violating the basic fundamentals upon which the State is founded. Here, the role of the Judiciary may become relevant as the third separate authority that is required for the proper functioning of the State.

    There were several objectives behind shutting down the Parliament in the last three years. First objective was to create an environment of mob regime with the hope of bringing down the Government through public pressure. Second objective was to portray the Government as incapable of governing which would be a forgone conclusion once you eliminate the legislative branch from the process. When these two objectives failed to materialize, the issue of pushing the blocking veto to Government decision making was the only face saving formula for the obstructionists to claim some sort of victory to their non-democratic attempts to rule the country.

    Finally, the next Government may get the mandate to govern, but it may not get any mandate to make any changes particularly on the constitutional level. This is one of the areas where National Importance 2/3 vote requirement is obviously relevant. No block will be abele to achieve a 2/3 majority MP’s. So while I don’t understand what this proportional representation means, it may require the 2/3 vote in parliament to approve. This is particularly so, if we’re talking here about parliamentary sectarian representation of 1/3, 1/3, 1/3. If it means proportional representation on the Government level, there is always ways to bring in ministers from different communities that would represent the ethnic groups and be acceptable to Parliament at the same time.

    Posted by majid | May 29, 2009, 10:00 pm
  13. Majid

    Can you be more specific about my comment being incorrect? The fact that parliament creates the government does not mean that the two branches have enjoyed equal power in practice, throughout Lebanese history.

    I’ll let Ghassan Tueni explain this point:

    “A careful analysis of the mis-exercise of democracy in Lebanon leads us to a number of conclusions:
    The checks and balances established between the executive and legislative branches were made inoperative by an ‘evil alliance’ between the two, and this took two forms:
    – The first flowed from the executive towards the legislative branch of government: by practicing extensive nepotism and confessional favouritism, to the detriment of the rule of law, a corrupt undemocratic executive could secure re-election for its party or group in parliament. Hence, instead of emerging from a parliamentary majority, the governing clique “elected” its own majority, and thus could theoretically perpetuate its power unless a major crisis caused a para-constitutional emergency which brought about a change, usually through the dissolution of parliament, the appointment of a neutral coalition or even an opposition government, and the announcement of new elections. The dimension of the change, and its constitutional consequences, were inversely proportional to the importance and effectiveness of the president who was the guarantor of the constitution.

    The second form of this ‘evil alliance’ flowed from the legislative towards the executive: because of the executive’s control of electoral results and its generous dispensation of favours, parliament tended to act with complacency towards the former’s actions, and save for some formal inconsequential oratorical performances, it avoided censoring the executive. Electoral laws, which were readjusted by self-serving legislatures with the complicity of the executive, were never allowed to reflect socio-political change, popular aspirations, and the emergence of new classes or political forces.

    The stagnation of so-called democratic government, and its inability to exercise leadership, particularly in the socio-economic development of the country, were due to an ever-increasing divorce between the ruling clique and the emerging classes. Lebanese democracy was not only cut off from its historical and political roots, it was left floating in a cultural vacuum. Not only was there no genuine democratic society to nurture and renovate constitutional institutions, including political parties, parliamentary blocs, and the civil service, but the very ideals of liberal democracy were thrust aside by the onslaught of authoritarianism and violent change.”

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | May 29, 2009, 11:51 pm
  14. Now, Lebanon as a State has ‘all’ the facades of Democratic institutions. But do we have the Nation? I believe another commenter (netsp) and I touched on this subject in a previous thread. And I liked the way he put it. He asked the question: what do you do first? Do you build the Nation or the State when you carve its borders? Obviously for a Democratic State to function, the Nation must have the Democratic culture as its most basic constituent. Yes, Tueni is absolutely right. We don’t have that in Lebanon.

    Having said all that, I recall the thread when it first started couple posts back, and I referred to the Greek play Oresteia by Aeschylus. I suggested at that time that the contributors should consult that play before answering your question about what kind of Lebanon do the Lebanese want.

    I am not going to make a presentation of the play in this comment. This is not the forum of course, and I do not have a vivid recollection of it at this point. I can just recall the basic outline, settings and themes. Of course modern Liberal Democracy is more than a play. But the play itself is the classic which inspires the reader or the audience in such a way as to compel him/them to make the choice by becoming consciously aware of those irrational forces in the society originating from tribal urges. And it also provides a rite of passage in order to tame those forces. The play deals with the issue at the existential level as you have put in your main post.

    That is all I have to say. If you have a solution, by all means enlighten.

    Posted by majid | May 30, 2009, 4:00 am
  15. Sorry QN again, the above comment seems to have missed its first paragraph. I think it is important to have a review button before submitting. Here is the full comment.

    QN,

    When I referred to your comment as incorrect, I meant exactly that which you brought from Mr. Tueni.

    Now, Lebanon as a State has ‘all’ the facades of Democratic institutions. But do we have the Nation? I believe another commenter (netsp) and I touched on this subject in a previous thread. And I liked the way he put it. He asked the question: what do you do first? Do you build the Nation or the State when you carve its borders? Obviously for a Democratic State to function, the Nation must have the Democratic culture as its most basic constituent. Yes, Tueni is absolutely right. We don’t have that in Lebanon.

    Having said all that, I recall the thread when it first started couple posts back, and I referred to the Greek play Oresteia by Aeschylus. I suggested at that time that the contributors should consult that play before answering your question about what kind of Lebanon do the Lebanese want.

    I am not going to make a presentation of the play in this comment. This is not the forum of course, and I do not have a vivid recollection of it at this point. I can just recall the basic outline, settings and themes. Of course modern Liberal Democracy is more than a play. But the play itself is the classic which inspires the reader or the audience in such a way as to compel him/them to make the choice by becoming consciously aware of those irrational forces in the society originating from tribal urges. And it also provides a rite of passage in order to tame those forces. The play deals with the issue at the existential level as you have put in your main post.

    That is all I have to say. If you have a solution, by all means enlighten.

    Posted by majid | May 30, 2009, 4:03 am
  16. Majid

    What I quoted from Ghassan Tueni was in support of my point, namely that the legislative and executive branches do not wield equal power in practice. You said that my point was incorrect and now you’re saying that Tueni’s argument backs you up. Please explain (preferably in a straightforward way, without reference to the tribulations of Orestes… a nice image but hardly a roadmap for statebuilding ya akhi.)

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | May 30, 2009, 9:48 am
  17. QN,

    Your original comment claims that the executive branch wielded more power than the legislative branch. There is no need to prove it wrong any further than what I said in comment 12. The system didn’t work due to corruption and due to the failure of the Lebanese to form political movements that have true National character. That’s basically what Mr. Tueni’s was saying. He was making an analysis of the failure of Democracy in Lebanon. He did not say the Executive wielded more power than the Legislative and actually it never did.

    Mr. Tueni is talking about the Government as a whole. In his analysis this includes both branches of Government i.e. the Legislative and the Executive. He directed equal blame to the Legislative as well as to the Executive branches. To say like in your case the Executive is to blame or to have wielded more power than the Legislative, that would be an overstatement to say the least. The Government is not just the Executive. It is the Parliament, the Executive, the President, and the Judiciary and in a better world you would also include the Media. But you could argue and say the media in Lebanon is not totally free, even though you have total freedom of speech, since the outlets are also controlled by the same politicians. But it is good in the sense they can keep check on each other. After all they still have to justify some of their behaviors to their mini-constituents and try to score points with their ‘opponents’.

    The deeper aspect of Mr. Tueni’s analysis is the cultural aspect due to the lack of a genuine democratic society to nurture and renovate constitutional institutions causing the stagnation of the system. He also added the observation ”the very ideals of liberal democracy were thrust aside by the onslaught of authoritarianism and violent change.” This last observation is clear a reference to the era of Syrian occupation, but more so a reference to the upheavals of the events of the last three years, since the recent onslaught on the system was carried out with the full participation of Lebanese politicians and organizations (political and para-military) in full daylight, something unique which you cannot blame on external actors and absolve yourself of guilt. None of these Statements single out the Executive branch as the culprit in the failures. In my previous comment, I was not attempting to provide a roadmap for state building. I was just catering to Tueni’s sentiments towards these cultural issues. I was hoping that you would provide some kind of a road map. So do you have any or does any one in your camp have any? Do you see any of these movements with running candidates have a grass-roots sociopolitical agenda? Do they actually operate on this philosophy? Or are we going to witness further ”onslaught of authoritarianism and violent change.”

    Posted by majid | May 30, 2009, 11:37 am
  18. QN,
    Here’s the link for the Jumblatt transcript: http://www.al-akhbar.com/ar/node/138100

    Posted by RedLeb | May 30, 2009, 11:46 am
  19. Every Tom, Dick and Harry has been talkin’ about the Armenian vote swinging this election. But say M8 wins, as Tashnaq has said they will go M8, though there are obviously other factors. How strongly do you think the Armenians are going to ally themselves in Parliament with Hez/Amal/SSNP etc?

    Right? These “coalitions” may not be as strong as they seem prior to the election.

    Posted by Abu Guerrilla | May 31, 2009, 9:29 am

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Pingback: Doha II … or Ta’if I? « Qifa Nabki - June 11, 2009

Are you just gonna stand there and not respond?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Browse archives

wordpress stats plugin
%d bloggers like this: