Let’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”).