Elections, Free Patriotic Movement, Hezbollah, Lebanon, March 14

Is That a Silver Bullet In Your Pocket…

electoralmathWe’ve entered the third week of deliberations over Lebanon’s next cabinet lineup, and there is no end in sight. Hariri has paid more house calls than a 19th century doctor in typhoid season, and yet for all we know, there isn’t even agreement on the most basic issues, like the number of ministers accorded to each side.

This is not entirely the  fault of one man or one party or one coalition. Consider the various matrices that Hariri is operating with. In most parliamentary democracies, the goal of the ruling party is typically to form a government with the smallest possible coalition that can gain the confidence of the legislative chamber.

In Lebanon’s case, the goal is to form a government with the largest possible coalition without completely crippling the executive branch through perpetual veto-enforced gridlock. It’s not pretty, but this is the solution that everyone is committed to this time around.

Add to this opening principle a variety of other distributional conventions and you have  a recipe for a very complicated process indeed. For example, the cabinet is typically supposed to be split equally between Christians and Muslims. Furthermore, Maronites, Sunnis, and Shiites are usually given the same share each. In a thirty-member cabinet, this would mean that there would have to be 15 Christians (e.g., 6 Maronites and 9 non-Maronites) and 15 Muslims (e.g., 6 Sunnis, 6 Shiites, and 3 Druzes).

Before you can go about parceling out seats, however, you need to know how many each coalition is going to get. Here we run into the old veto issue. Hariri is negotiating different opposition demands, ranging from Aoun and Frangieh’s request for full proportional representation (which would amount to 45% of the cabinet or 13 ministers), to a simple veto share (11 seats), to Hizbullah and Amal’s constructive ambiguity (which is presumably open to a 10 seat share along with certain “guarantees” in the cabinet declaration.)

Finally, there is the issue of foreign interests. Syria would like its allies to have a veto share and would like it even better if Hariri came to Damascus before announcing the cabinet (highly unlikely indeed). The Saudis would like to reserve as much power for M14, but there have been rumblings about a possible opening to Damascus as a means of drawing it back into the Arab fold. Given the number of square pegs awaiting insertion into round holes, where does a novice PM-designate even begin?

The formula most talked about is the so-called 15-10-5 split (for M14, M8, and the President, respectively), which has a certain elegance about it. For legislation on ordinary issues, M14 would not be able to push through its agenda without help from the President’s ministers, a fact that would seem to strengthen the President’s role as a true consensual figure, and not just a symbolic one.

At the same time, the opposition would not be able to block legislation on the “issues of national importance” that require a cabinet supermajority, without the help of the president as well. His ministers would represent the crucial swing vote.

If Hariri were to pursue this option, how would he parcel out the opposition’s share of 10 seats? My guess is that he’s planning to split them equally between Aoun’s Change & Reform Bloc and Hizbullah/Amal. Why? Let’s look at the numbers.

March 14 won 71 seats in the 128-seat parliament, which translates to 55%. March 8 won the remaining 45%. If we were to adopt General Aoun’s proposal that the cabinet lineup reflect the parliamentary balance, this would mean that M14 would get 17 seats in a 30 member cabinet and M8 would get 13. Of course, such an alignment would give the opposition its desired one-third-plus-one cabinet veto, which Hariri and co. would like to avoid, so full proportional represetation is out of the question for them. However, partial proportional representation may be the silver bullet.

According to the most generous calculation, Aoun’s Change & Reform Bloc won 28 seats in parliament (if you count Marada, Tashnaq, and the Wahdet al-Jabal Bloc [Talal Arslan, Bilal Farhat, Fadi A`war, and Naji Gharios]) or 21.9%. This share would represent 7 cabinet seats (6.56 to be exact) under a proportional scheme. Given that Hizbullah has routinely expressed its inclination to give up its own cabinet share to its electoral allies, this would permit Hariri to satisfy Aoun and Frangieh’s proportional demand without giving the opposition as a whole a blocking veto. Six or seven seats for Change & Reform plus three seats for Berri would seem to do the trick. No veto, but a face-saving exit for Aoun and Frangieh, and perhaps also a way for Hariri to begin mending fences with the FPM. Of course, it’s unlikely that Berri will agree to having only 3 seats compared to Aoun’s 7, but that’s their problem, not Hariri’s.

Aoun’s lieutenants have been uncharacteristically supportive of Hariri in recent days (Bassil: “We have an interest in the success of Saad Hariri”) and so this is perhaps what they are angling for with the insistence on proportional representation.

One way or the other, we should know in, oh… maybe another six months.
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30 thoughts on “Is That a Silver Bullet In Your Pocket…

  1. While the Lebanese factions continue to do the math at home and scratch their heads to maximize their respective shares of the pie, it seems the most important issues facing Lebanon are decided elsewhere. Nabih Berri who seems to have some kind of ‘divine inspiration’ prophesied a government in two weeks – of course once the issues are resolved in the respective capitals, proper visits and cheek kissing are made and the solution packaged back to Beirut. Once again, the Lebanese politicians have proven the least competent and lost their moment in history. So, do not blame it on others, take it easy and waste not your effort analyzing Druze/Sunni/Shiite/Christian and Christian/Christian bickering. It is all meant to serve the same purpose, you’ll eventually get whatever you’ll get for your share and your math skills will not get you anywhere to add a seat from your share or take one away from some others. It is more like a government decreed by pre-destination. After all it was just a game and the Lebanese showed their canny understanding of how to play. However, do not lose sight of the fact that some Lebanese gambled on regional power politics and unavoidably some would lose and some would win. It is more like a poker game. Winning in this case does not necessarily mean Lebanon has won.

    See here for some hints.

    Posted by majid | July 15, 2009, 12:42 pm
  2. As a follow up to my previous comment, I’d like to add another scenario for cabinet formation suitable for the Lebanese way of doing things. First of all, we need to realize that the catch word for the government to be installed and become government is the term constitutional which allows it to win the official blessings of President Suleiman. We have to make a clear distinction between constitutional government and the so-called heresy of proportional representation within cabinet based on the number of seats won. Of course proportionality is the favorite scheme for those who lost in order to somehow receive some sort of conciliatory prize for the so-called value-added representation in the government presumably giving it wider popular support – Very smart and ingenious indeed but still lacks the validity of mathematical rigor as this post of QN seems to highlight.

    Let’s look at it this way. One party won the elections and it has the undisputed right to govern. It can extend an invitation to those who lost to participate on its own terms, being the winner. International and local circumstances are in its favor and it can easily form a government on its own. So there is no need to compromise and give the opposition more than it deserves. So what would be the best offer to those who lost?

    Let’s start with FPM and the Maronite representation of presumably 6 portfolios in a cabinet of 30. The best offer would be 2 for LF, 2 for Kataeb and 2 for FPM. If, let’s say, FPM refuses then its 2-seats offer would go to those who ran against FPM and lost, since they would still account for somewhere around 50% of popular representation. Same logic applies to the other non-Maronite Christian portfolios. FPM can be offered one two or three portfolios depending on PM-designate discretion. Three would go to LF and 3 to Kataeb. Again if FPM refuses whatever it has been offered then all three seats would go to those who ran against FPM and lost. In this case FPM would be sitting in the deep freezer for four more years, hoping and praying that Ahmedinejjad would somehow come out of his predicament in order to revive the spirit of the so-called MoU which I wonder why it didn’t find its way to the nearest trash-bin yet. Then Lebanon would once again be put by its own so-called patriots under the mercy of another Juri-Consul in Qom.

    The case of the Shiite representation is not that complicated considering the fact that the orders would come from across the border to oblige. Hezb would get 2 and Amal would get 2 portfolios and 2 would go to Shiite M14 or to Suleiman’s share. Then we’re back to the famous 2005 quad partite government. Worst come to worst, Shiite representation can be obtained from M14 members or President Suleiman can choose them by consulting with Hezb and Berri if they choose to stay on the sides.

    Is there anything unconstitutional about this arrangement? I would safely say it is certainly proportional when you consider popular votes, definitely so on the Christian camp. So what is Aoun actually trying to sell by this invention of so-called value-added proportionality representation within cabinet?

    Posted by majid | July 15, 2009, 3:42 pm
  3. QN,

    I like your reasoning on how they will try to split the cabinet. But i would only assume that HA/Amal have also factored this scenario. So maybe HA will request a 2nd token seat to throw a monkey wrench in M14’s plan of cozying up to Aoun.

    Posted by Innocent Criminal | July 15, 2009, 3:58 pm
  4. Of course you can assume things IC. But it will not happen. Developments do not favor such assumptions.

    Posted by majid | July 15, 2009, 5:50 pm
  5. QN, I don’t see many people in Lebanon complaining about the complexity of the system. I see it being untouched for the next time you have elections in Lebanon.


    I wrote you an email to explain a few things but the address you provided us is not accurate. The email was returned.

    Posted by Alex | July 15, 2009, 6:47 pm
  6. Alex
    I’ll leave a comment on SC with the correct e-mail address in the e-mail box. I will mention in the comment the fake e-mail that I use as a proof of identity. I do not want my e-mail to become public. So, please delete that comment once you look at it.

    Posted by majid | July 15, 2009, 7:09 pm
  7. Alex

    I don’t think anyone really likes the system. But you’re probably right about it remaining untouched. There will be very little impetus on March 14’s part to change it, now that they’ve won on the basis of the Doha law.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | July 15, 2009, 7:37 pm
  8. Why should it be better than a president was decided upon.. it’s fine I guess, this is how things are in Lebanon, yekhdo wa2toun

    Posted by Liliane | July 16, 2009, 1:44 am
  9. Majid,

    1. “Let’s look at it this way. One party won the elections and it has the undisputed right to govern.”

    So, it was not a coallition of parties then that won the elections? One party rules! Hayda mafhoumak lal wehde el-wataniyeh?

    2. “In this case FPM would be sitting in the deep freezer for four more years,”

    FPM is resistant to temperature extremes. More so, deep freezing or boiling strengthens it. It would be in your best interest and that of your ONE PARTY RULE to treat it with neutral conditions.

    3. “to revive the spirit of the so-called MoU which I wonder why it didn’t find its way to the nearest trash-bin yet.”

    Should this MOU (with the same content) been embraced by HA and the FM instead, would you still have thought it should find its way to the trash-bin?

    4. “Then Lebanon would once again be put by its own so-called patriots under the mercy of another Juri-Consul in Qom.”

    Those “so-called patriots” preserved the spirit of Lebanon when the likes of you placed us under the mercy of hakem Anjar. Have some shame.


    Posted by PN | July 16, 2009, 7:00 pm
  10. PN,

    I think you’re becoming irrational and I may even say a little bit emotional. I suggest you take it easy.

    Here is a run down on your swipes.

    What is wehde wataniyye for you? Is it the heresy of proportional representation? No, thank you. There are just as many who lost against FPM who can provide this non-seller.

    One party or one coalition, what is the difference? The coalition ran as one in the elections and won against another coalition. Does that make you happy now? Or, are you playing on words? Only Aoun’s greed and ego made him leave the winning coalition. What does he think he is?

    Yes. The winning coalition has the undisputed right to govern, and if need be without participation from the losing coalition.

    A gambler may lose as much as he raises his bets. That’s needless to say of course. Except that, in this case he was gambling the whole country, without a mandate of course. And you expect us to support him and his madness. No thank you, we have better options and we know where we belong in the regional scheme of things. It is in the constitution. You can follow along if you wish.

    How does the so called MoU serve your vision of so-called wehde wataniyye? Is it not just an attempt to catapult a thrice-failed egotistic maniac to the Presidency in exchange for keeping weapons off-discussions to be used in adventures to serve regional powers while you and your ‘likes’ keep dreaming of so-called lost Presidential powers? And you have the audacity to talk of so-called hakim Anjar? Give me a break. No thanks, we do not need Juri-Consuls to decide the fate of Lebanon. By the way, did you ever ask yourself whether this tahjeer dilemma that you keep complaining about has something to do with an innate quality? Is it not something to do with an inability to deal with your surroundings that unfortunately drives those afflicted to other pastures?

    Why would FM and HA have such useless MoU’s? The least I can say it’s hypothetical, very unlikely and would never happen.

    Finally, I will add one of my own that QN seems to have avoided discussing with you in a previous thread. These are the possible solutions to the so-called lost Presidential Powers that you seem to keep complaining about. The President would remain Maronite but as a symbolic figure, i.e. now power. Or, The President’s powers can be expanded, but the presidency will become a rotating presidency. I believe you have already some studies indicating the current demographic strengths of the various sects which puts the Christian community way behind the Muslims. Of course the head of the army and command structure will have to follow suit. Can you live with that?

    The other option of course is the full implementation of Taif through secularization.


    Posted by majid | July 16, 2009, 9:04 pm
  11. QN,

    I have an Idea for you , Lebanon should have another election for the cabinet posts , that will be easier than forming a cabinet by Hariri,That probably will take less time,

    Posted by norman | July 17, 2009, 9:59 pm
  12. Ammo Norman

    Thanks, I’ll pass it along. 🙂

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | July 17, 2009, 10:49 pm
  13. I do not know who is behind this development Norman. But it could have a great negative impact on Syria with regards to its perceived role as a regional ‘player’. I have heard that Barghouti would be out of jail very soon, which means that Hamas-Gaza branch will most likely follow him instead of Meshaal who is sitting in Damascus basically doing nothing. Barghouti seems to be more inclined to play along Egyptian lines by bringing both Palestinian factions together. So, I wonder what will happen to Hamas-Damascus branch, or even worse how Syria would be perceived in the Arab world in the aftermath of such development. Another card went into trash for nothing? Too bad, it just couldn’t be sold for the right price. I wonder how Assad senior would have dealt with it? What may follow is the likelihood that Egypt would be less inclined to rapprochement with Bashar, i.e. there would be no incentive to do so, and Mubarak may even convince Riyad to do the same, i.e. a trip to Damascus is not worth it at the moment, and it is better to wait couple more years until Nejjad and his boss clean the ayat off. Nejjad seems intent on reclaiming all the wealth accumulated by these ‘holy men’ over the ages in a revolutionary nationalization scheme in order to preserve the Supreme Leaders authority unchallenged. Ingenious, but you never know the outcome. So, I agree with you we should wait until the picture clears. In other words Mubarak is right there is no need to hurry and fix Syria’s problems. It looks like it is not a good investment at the moment. Besides the US markets seem to be recovering and it makes more sense to invest in a tested free market territory than in an untested totalitarian ruled economy.

    As I mentioned to you recently, time is running out and this Obamania is losing steam and going nowhere. The option I mentioned to you about transforming the Syrian armed forces and proceeding into liberation phase of the Golan seems to be the only option left. You know how it worked in Lebanon. You just have to copy the same example. I guarantee to you it will work but you have to make sure you can continue the fight for at least a month or two.

    In the meantime, it is worth referring your suggestion about electing cabinets to a panel of experts and see what they recommend. But just a quick thought at the outset, how much would it cost? I mean electing a Parliament was costly enough. Is it worth to make another investment? And how long will it take to recover the cost? It looks like a risky investment. Can’t you think of something cheaper?

    Posted by majid | July 17, 2009, 11:27 pm
  14. http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3748350,00.html

    Ron Ben-Yishai’s take.

    Hizballah’s recent moves do seem a little desperate.

    Posted by AIG | July 18, 2009, 11:47 am
  15. QN,I am sure that you have the way to get the Idea to the top,


    I am glad that these thoughts about KSA and Egypt are keeping you upbeat but i doubt that it will be the case ,

    About the Palestinians , Syria only wants the Palestinians to have a unified position that will not deny them their rights for seeking force to get their rights back if the peace process does not materialize , Hams wants that option and i think Barghouti wants that too while Abbas gave away all his cards , I think you agree with me about keeping them guessing on the way we intend to get our rights and not to surrender before a fight,

    About the cost of a new election for the cabinet in Lebanon , for God sakes , what else they have been doing , nothing so far ,
    This will show you that Israel does not want peace and i agree with you that Syria should be preparing for a a long war that will last months or years , with that Israel will not be able to tolerate that kind of war,and will be willing to give the Arabs their rights , the Israelis should know that we want our rights not the destruction of Israel or the killing of the Jews,

    Share |

    Zvi Bar’el / Israel doesn’t want to make peace with Syria

    By Zvi Bar’el

    Tags: Israel News, peace

    After nine years of rule, Syrian President Bashar Assad can note with satisfaction that his situation has never been better. Damascus has become the main stop for senior American and European government officials. Lebanon, even without the presence of the Syrian army, is under strong Syrian influence and will form a government when Syria wants it to. Saudi Arabia has renewed its warm relationship with Syria after four years of stagnation, and internal Palestinian reconciliation depends quite a bit on Damascus.

    Assad can chalk up another “achievement”: In Israel there is no partner for peace. Assad is managing to persuade others that he is not the “unripe” leader for peace – Jerusalem is in refusal mode. This time it’s not just a question of a stubborn Israeli prime minister, but an entire flock of legal jugglers who know very well how to foil diplomatic moves.

    Until U.S. President Barack Obama came on the scene, Israel could depend on the theory of Syrian isolation to protect it from having to consider withdrawing from the Golan Heights. According to this theory, if Syria wants relations with “the world,” that is, with America, it must sever ties with Iran, expel the Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaderships, and neutralize Hezbollah’s militia. Only then would Israel consider negotiating with it. The slight deviation during Ehud Olmert’s term in office, in which indirect talks were held with Syria through Turkey, went out with a whimper. Now, with the crash of the isolation theory, Israel has no alternative plan that would put the blame on Syria.

    The Golan Heights lobby, frightened by the Syrian-American rapprochement and expected pressure on Israel to withdraw, has quickly mobilized its legal efforts. It will not be the government and prime minister who will have to hold up under pressure, but rather “the law.” And the law, as we know, is much harder to bend than a politician.

    As in the Passover Haggadah, if the Knesset had been satisfied with the Golan Annexation Law of 1981 – dayenu, that would have been enough. Menachem Begin explained at the time that the law does not prevent negotiations with Syria, but even then it was clear that if Israel was not withdrawing from occupied territory, it would certainly not withdraw from territory it had annexed “by law.” Then came 1999, which gave us the law mandating a referendum for surrendering sovereign Israeli territory, but in the same breath also determined that a basic law on referenda should be passed. Such a bill has not been passed, so according to opponents of withdrawal, the law has no real significance.

    Then came 2008, when a bill passed in first reading, proposed by Avigdor Itzchaky, then coalition chairman under Kadima. It was very simple: There would be no withdrawal from the Golan. True, like every bill, it was carefully formulated, outlining possible conditions for leaving the Golan: a majority of 80 MKs in favor of withdrawal, which would release the government from holding a referendum; or new elections, which would obviate the need to forge an 80-MK majority. If neither of these prevailed, there could be a referendum to decide on peace with Syria. In short, no withdrawal from the Golan.

    That’s an easy bill to vote on. Now, after the delay because of the early elections, we have to see if the bill can be brought for a second and third reading, a decision that can be made in a day, even an hour. The matter was to have been discussed on Thursday by a special subcommittee of the House Committee and Constitution, Law and Justice Committee. The debate was postponed but not taken off the agenda, because now Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also wants extra protection from expected American pressure.

    This ostensibly is a legal, constitutional matter: Why does the public need to be asked after it has already decided in elections that brought in a Knesset and cabinet? Is it necessary to waste NIS 200 million on a referendum? Perhaps a referendum on non-peace, and then war, could be decided by text message? These are all certainly very important questions that have blurred the main issue: Israel is neither ready nor ripe, nor does it desire to make peace with Syria.

    Posted by norman | July 18, 2009, 11:22 pm
  16. Norman,

    You are just making a fool of yourself with your “long war” theory. Syria is no match for Israel in any war and cannot sustain a long war itself. How long can Syria last without being able to export oil and with a complete air and sea blockade? How long can Syria last without electricity or water service to the major cities? How long can Syria last with no roads between its main cities?

    Furthermore you are assuming that Syrians care enough about the Golan that they would trash their country completely while sustaining huge human losses to get it. There may be one or two divisions that will fight for Assad, but no reasonable Syrian would willingly give his life and livelihood for the Syrian dictator or the Golan.

    Let’s have a poll. How many Syrians in the diaspora are willing to return to Syria to fight such a war? In fact, most find ways to pay not to go to the army.

    In any case, if you want a war, you better start it soon because it looks like Israel’s missile defense systems are getting better by the day. http://www.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idUSTRE56E61T20090715
    In 5 years, the missile threat to Israel will be minimal. I am therefore awaiting your immediate attack. Which will of course not come.

    The Golan is the least of Syria’s problems. Better focus on the more important ones.

    Posted by AIG | July 18, 2009, 11:42 pm
  17. AIG,

    Syria can last a Lott longer than Israel , Israelis will be like you , packing up and moving to the US,

    Aig ,
    The Israeli militery doctrine,

    Israel’s military doctrine explains this point as follows: Since Israel is a small nation (population-wise), it cannot sustain long wars (months, years). It also cannot win by conquering any of its neighboring nations, as it simply would not be able to supply enough soldiers for the task. Since Israel is also geographically a small nation (and has a particularly vulnerable shape – long and narrow), it also cannot afford to fight battles deep within its own territory. Therefore a few conclusions are reached:

    1. Israel must fight short wars (days, weeks), and cannot lose even once.

    2. Israel must fight its battles on its rival’s territory, not on her own (contrary, for instance, to China’s military doctrine).

    3. Since Israel cannot win any war (in the classical sense), if it wishes to still achieve a strong element of deterrence, it must punish its rival severely, and in a highly disproportionate manner. This can most recently be seen in Lebanon 2006, and Gaza 2009.

    4. (A corollary of 3) Since Israel cannot impose its will upon any rival, and assuming that wars are inevitable (i.e. peace is not a realistic option), each war should have as its main goal the longest possible delay until the next war. That can only be achieved through attaining the greatest possible deterrence

    Posted by norman | July 19, 2009, 7:03 am
  18. Norman,
    I was 10 years in the Israeli army. You were not one day in any army.

    Israel can make sure that after 2 weeks of fighting the Asad regime disappears and Syria deteriorates into a civil war in comparison to which Iraq will be a walk in the park.

    It is true that Israel cannot fight WWII style wars for long. They are very costly. But neither can Syria. But Israel has proven that it can fight low intensity wars for as long as needed. Israel will fight an high intensity war with Syria until the regime is gone and nothing is left of Syria’s infrastructure. Then it will be happy to sit on the sidelines and watch Syrians kill each other.

    Everybody understands this except you. But by all means, attack Israel and see what happens. You probably need more humiliation.

    Posted by AIG | July 19, 2009, 9:56 am
  19. Syria, the beating heart of the arab world will crush the evil zionist forces in a blink of an eye however, this will only be done at a pace and timing that is decided by the brave leadership of the baath party headed by none other than the great Lion “El Daktor” wloo 3ala amteeeeeeeeeeee

    Posted by V | July 19, 2009, 11:14 am
  20. Let’s get back to this post’s topic shall we!
    I agree with you on all points QN. I wished you took some time to comment on Majid’s arguments.
    I would really be interesting to hear what you have to say about them because he echos the March XIV® political arguments held to be grounded in legal and constitutional principles.
    I think I’ll tackle them tomorrow on my blog.

    Posted by worriedlebanese | July 19, 2009, 11:26 am
  21. “I agree with you on all points QN.”

    Do you agree on these points as well in QN’s main post, worriedlebanesw?

    “Given that Hizbullah has routinely expressed its inclination to give up its own cabinet share to its electoral allies, this would permit Hariri to satisfy Aoun and Frangieh’s proportional demand without giving the opposition as a whole a blocking veto. Five seats for Change & Reform plus four seats for Berri plus one token seat for Hizbullah would seem to do the trick. No veto, but a face-saving exit for Aoun and Frangieh, and perhaps also a way for Hariri to begin mending fences with the FPM.”

    Think again…

    This paragraph is completely flawed and I’m not sure if you gave it enough thought. The first important question that should be asked: what is Hezb giving up in terms of a share in cabinet? Is it giving up the Shiite share in order to inflate Aoun’s Christian representation? If so, then Hezb should come out with a clear statement to this effect. It would also perhaps be helpful for Hezb to seek to justify this act in front of its Shiite constituency. In other words, would the Shiite community agree to being represented by less than six portfolios in a cabinet of thirty? If Hezb is not giving up its Shiite share in cabinet and simply acquiescing to being represented by Shiite persons that FPM would consider as part of its share, then it should also make its intentions clear to this effect. In this case Berri will not be getting 4 ministers as QN suggested. He would be getting perhaps one or two. Aoun in this case may get none, one or two Christian portfolios, in addition to his Hezb Shiite portfolios

    The conclusion that is unavoidable is that Aoun has become a political liability to his allies. I do not see how he can succeed by getting resuscitated through intra-sectarian prop-up doses of constituents he has no claim over whatsoever to represent, precisely because of his insistence on the outdated 1960 election law. I do not even see how he can be sold back to March 14 or even FM after his gymnastic flip flops through such statements “Aoun’s lieutenants have been uncharacteristically supportive of Hariri in recent days (Bassil: “We have an interest in the success of Saad Hariri”)”

    The guy is simply a failure of wide proportions (no pun intended on proportional representation in cabine) and he should be treated as such.

    The last point I’d like to make is that M14 should under no circumstances give up its right to govern through an arragement of %50 plus 1 vote in cabinet. Needless to say, blocking third is a no, no as it is a clear heresy that has no basis in constitution or law.

    Posted by majid | July 19, 2009, 5:07 pm
  22. Majid, I honestly don’t see any flaw in the paragraph you quote. It is quite obvious that you misunderstand QN’s point. He never said anything about Hezbollah “giving up the Shiite share in order to inflate Aoun’s Christian representation”. This is constitutionally not possible!

    As for your second proposition, it equally indicated that you either don’t grasp the logic behind allocations of share, or your not very good in calculus. In a government of 30 ministers, March XIV® has agreed that March VIII and its allies will get 10 (and not 11) ministers. So if Hezbollah decides to sacrifice its share in government, you could have a great number of seat distribution: one of the simplest ones would be: 4 Shiite ministers to Amal, 4 Christian to the FPM + Marada, 1 Shiite seat to FPM and 1 Druze seat to Arslan. And that’s just one possible distribution.

    As for your statements on Aoun, that’s your personal opinion, and you’re entitled to it. But I encourage you to go beyond the slogans you hear and try to base your analysis on facts. You might dislike the guy, his ideas, his political conduct. You can say that he has lost some support within the Christian community. But there are facts you cannot ignore. Aoun heads the second largest parliamentary bloc and his party survived on two occasions the largest electoral Bulldozers Lebanon has ever witnessed.

    Posted by worriedlebanese | July 19, 2009, 5:51 pm
  23. worriedlebanese,

    To begin with, I’m not sure whose point it is that I quoted – whether it is actually QN’s own point or whether he just expressed an opinion that he might have heard.
    Nevertheless, what was said in that paragraph is “Given that Hizbullah has routinely expressed its inclination to give up its own cabinet share to its electoral allies”

    Do you dispute that the Hezbollah cabinet share is part of the Shiite community share? If you do, then please see here and try to find me a non-Shiite MP within Hezb block.

    It looks like whatever Hezb gives up in terms of its share would have to come out of the Shiite share. Agree? If Hezb decides to give it to Aoun then in effect Hezb is propping-up Aoun – whether it happens in the Shiite domain or the Christian domain.

    With regards to your point about knowing or not knowing calculus, I do not think it is relevant. You only need such ‘extraordinary’ skills if you adopt the so-called heresy of proportional representation in cabinet based on the number of seats won. In my previous comments, I made it clear that this is not what I subscribe to as a rule in cabinet formation and you acknowledged that in your previous comment (but granted you did not necessarily agree).

    Let’s say six Shiite portfolios have to be divided up. Hezb may claim the lion’s share, let’s say three or four. Amal may claim one or two. M14 may claim one and the President may claim one. If Hezb’s share goes to Aoun, then they have to be either Shiite from the Aoun block, or if Hezb gave up its right to Shiite representation in cabinet, then the logic in my previous comment follows, i.e. the Shiite cannot have six portfolios. You do not need to be a math genius.

    Now, do you see how many ‘ifs’I have in the last two comments? They can only be resolved by a clarification from Hezb on what its intentions are. That’s what I said exactly in my previous comment. Hezb’s ploy is ambiguous.

    I still maintain that Aoun and his block whether it is the second largest or not should not be given any political resuscitation from M14 or FM or anyone else fore that matter. I do not have anything against him as a person. But his record beginning in 1989 onward is not very attractive to say the least. Let him prove himself on his own merits not through intra-sectarian prop-ups from groups having their own agendas, which you correctly pointed out as non-constitutional.

    And by the way, giving up Hezb Shiite seats could be a good solution to the country, for the time being, in the presence of the Hezb statelet. Why should Hezb have its own statelet and still be represented in government? Is there any non-Hezb representation within Hezb structure? Perhaps, Hezb can become honest with itself, its community and the Lebanese State by declaring that it is giving up its representation in the official State because it already has its own ‘state’ and there is no need for duplicity.

    Otherwise, it could also decide to give up its statelet and merge with the rest of the Lebanese in one State without need for such proxies like Aoun, Frangieh or others.

    Posted by majid | July 19, 2009, 7:15 pm
  24. Again Majid, you confuse political preferences (or suggestions) with political analysis.
    You are entitled to your political opinions, but when you mix them with political analysis you are actually discussing “what should happen” and not “what is happening” or “what could happen”. What your consistently do is share your political opinion instead of analysing the political situation (which is independent of your opinion, unless you have a direct influence on political affairs).

    It is quite obvious that you still don’t understand QN’s argument. And I believe that’s because the Lebanese confessional system muddles you, and because you stick to slogans instead of looking into the behaviour of political actors.

    This comes out clearly in the following paragraph you wrote. It is quite baffling:

    “Do you dispute that the Hezbollah cabinet share is part of the Shiite community share? If you do, then please see here and try to find me a non-Shiite MP within Hezb block.
    It looks like whatever Hezb gives up in terms of its share would have to come out of the Shiite share. Agree? If Hezb decides to give it to Aoun then in effect Hezb is propping-up Aoun – whether it happens in the Shiite domain or the Christian domain.”

    The expression you use “Shiite community share” and “Shiite domain” do not reflect the intricate rules & principles of our political system. I think it would be more profitable to remind of them.

    Our constitution mentions:
    – the principle of confessional representation “تمثيل طائفي” (Article 95) which is a misnomer, the principle is actually the principle of multiconfessional participation الاشتراك المتعدد طائفيآ (and it is actually a right given to individuals, not to communities).
    – the principle of national representation “عضو البرلمان يمثل الأمة جمعاء” (article 27)
    – the principle of just representation of communities in government تمثل الطوائف بصورة عادلة في تشكيل الوزارة (article 95)
    – the principle that any authority that contradicts the ‘pact of
    communal coexistence’ is considered illegitimate لا شرعية لأي سلطة تناقض ميثاق العيش المشترك· (preamble).
    – the rules of [confessional] distribution of parliamentary seats قواعد توزيع [الطائفي ل] المقاعد النيابية (article 24)

    According to our constitutional rules, there is no such thing as representatives of communities ممثلين ظوائف.
    However, this idea gained ground after Taef when Nabih Berri, Walid Joumblatt and Rafik Hariri fought to secure their dominant position within their communities, and when the Christian opposition to Syria (Free Patriotic Movement, Lebanese Forces, Kataeb, National Liberal Party & National Bloc) claimed to be the true “representative of Christians”.
    This being said, shares are allocated to members of communities and not to communities (الحصص معطاة لابناء طائفة، وليس للطائفة). So the FPM could in principle have a Shiite minister (and he doesn’t have to be a parliamentarian, it could be for instance Ramzi Kanj), just like the Kataeb could have a Druze minister (highly improbable), or Jumblatt can have one or two Christian ministers (a well established practice)… This doesn’t diminish the communal shares, and some political parties are willing to go into such arrangements.
    In the second Siniora Government, March VIII accepted to relinquish its share of Christian ministers so as to give it to Aoun’s FPM (Berri stopped having his Christian minister, & Suleiman Frangieh wasn’t represented). Likewise, Joumblat relinquished his Christian Minister (for the first time since 1992 I believe) for an “independent” close to Future Movement… Lastly, Amal and Hezbollah accepted to concede a Shiite seat to an “independent” backed by the Future Movement (Ibrahim Chamseddine) so as to give the FPM’s bloc an extra seat within the numerical arrangement.

    Posted by worriedlebanese | July 20, 2009, 4:29 am
  25. too much talk.
    Have a nice week.

    Posted by samah | July 20, 2009, 5:52 am
  26. Hi everyone

    A friend of mine thinks that I don’t do a good enough job moderating this comment section and she’s probably right.

    I’ll be back tonight to read all the comments and see who’s making sense and who’s making nonsense.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | July 20, 2009, 10:31 am
  27. I see your point now worriedlebanese. Thanks for the explanation. I think I was wrong.

    But, I also think it is the politicians’ fault. They succeeded to make a bad situation even worse during the last 18 years as you explained very well. Thanks again.

    Posted by majid | July 20, 2009, 1:16 pm
  28. Seriously, all this talk could have been explained in 2 sentences. HA does not have a monopoly on Shiite representation. A Shiite from Auon’s party could have taken one of HA’s seats, this way there would still be the “right” amount of Shiites in the cabinet.

    And comment moderations is needed QN, its the curse of having a successful blog 😉

    Posted by Innocent Criminal | July 20, 2009, 2:47 pm
  29. Ok you’re hired.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | July 20, 2009, 2:57 pm
  30. OK IC, you may think that you have the issue simplified and may not require discussion. But there is still an important aspect to this ploy of Hezb that you may have overlooked. It has to do strictly with Lebanese politics. Notwithstanding, I admitted my error to WL but that admission relates only to the constitutional aspect, for which WL made an excellent clarification.

    The political aspect has to do with the number of Christian portfolios Aoun may eventually get when he combines Hezb’s share with his. If he converts Hezb’s share (which is part of the Shiite portfolios since Hezb has no claim over other communities) to Christian portfolios, then he is taking those portfolios away from M14 Christians, thus creating unnecessary political bickering within the same camp.

    Therefore, clarification of this portfolio swap is important when you want to arrive at a final cabinet composition.

    Of course, if Aoun chooses Shiite FPM portfolios for those Hezb portfolios, then this problem doesn’t arise.

    So there is more to it than what you suggested. It may not sound too important to non-Lebanese, but to Lebanese politicians it makes a hell of a lot of difference to reach an agreement and maintain balance. It is still my fault, perhaps because I feel that I confused the issue and failed to make it as clear as I should have.

    Posted by majid | July 20, 2009, 8:32 pm

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