Elections, Free Patriotic Movement, Lebanon, March 14

Hariri Walks Away

saad-hariri-bye

He's making like a tree and walking away...

[We managed to get yesterday’s poll up just in the nick of time, but the results are now moot. So, here’s another poll for you. (Those of you reading on RSS, you’ll probably need to click over to the blog itself to vote).]

Seventy-three days, countless meetings, and one cabinet proposal later, Saad al-Hariri has decided to resign as Prime Minister-designate. Everybody expects him to be reappointed.

I’m quite pleased with this move and I think Hariri should have resigned over a month ago rather than haggling over Gebran Bassil’s eyes and Sami Gemayel’s sun tan. The past three months have been farcical, even by Lebanese standards.

As we’ve discussed many times before, one really wonders what the point of a national unity government is, under these circumstances. If it has taken them this long to fail to form a goverment, how is it even imaginable that a national unity cabinet is going to get anything done? Does Hariri think that Aoun is going to become easier to deal with once he joins the cabinet and that the FPM is going to stop behaving like an aggrieved opposition party? I venture to say that the opposite will be true.

As long as “national unity” remains the non-negotiable principle undergirding any governing effort, then it is going to be far too easy for any single bloc to play spoiler.

Here’s how the system is supposed to work. If the PM does not have the votes within their own bloc to create the cabinet of their choice, then they need to go fishing for the coalition ally who is going to give them the best “deal”. Eventually some smaller blocs agree to join the PM’s bloc via a governing agreement, e.g. “We agree to pursue these policies, and any deviation from these policies will result in the breaking of the cabinet agreement and the dissolution of this government.”

Under this system, the smaller blocs get to punch above their weight because they know that the big bloc needs them to govern, while the big bloc benefits by allowing the smaller blocs to compete amongst each other.

The problem with the current process in Lebanon is that the smaller blocs have no need to “sell themselves” to the big bloc because they know that the big bloc is already committed to including them in some way in the government. With no fear of being left out in the cold, they can continue to make one demand after another.

Saad al-Hariri should take a page from Hasan Nasrallah’s play book. Back in the spring, when everybody was forecasting a win for March 8th, Nasrallah went on television and repeated the offer that he had been making for months (paraphrased):

“If we win, we will form a national unity government and give the other side a blocking third share.  However,” Nasrallah added, “if you refuse to accept our generous offer, we will not hesitate to rule this country alone.”

You see how he did that? So simple, so straightforward, so rational. Nasrallah was completely unperturbed about violating some vague principle of “common living” should the Future Movement not join his cabinet. And this is the same strategy that Hariri should follow. He should go on TV and say: “I am extending a hand of partnership to you. If you refuse it, we will not hesitate to rule this country alone.”

End of story.
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Discussion

59 thoughts on “Hariri Walks Away

  1. Hey Elias –

    Simple question here, and one that reflects my ignorance of some basic Lebanese political principles: Could Hariri, if he so desired, simply form a cabinet on his own? That is, does the PM have the prerogative to fill all the positions unilaterally?

    If so, it would support your argument.

    Posted by Evan | September 10, 2009, 12:59 pm
  2. Thats how it SHOULD work, but, it ain’t gonna happen.

    I hope FPM’s M8 partners will only tolerate his banters for a short while before asking him to suck it up and compromise. M14 won the elections fairly and none of the M8 parties can deny that. When it boils down to it, I feel most would rather be in the unity government in some form than to go back to the 06-08 scenario

    Posted by Innocent Criminal | September 10, 2009, 1:01 pm
  3. Evan

    The cabinet needs to gain the confidence of the Chamber of Deputies (parliament). If Jumblatt were still a die-hard member of March 14, Hariri could theoretically gain the confidence of a self-appointed cabinet with March 14’s votes.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | September 10, 2009, 1:01 pm
  4. PS: I should add that Jumblatt has stated publicly that he would vote with March 14 on the cabinet formation.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | September 10, 2009, 1:02 pm
  5. QN,

    Quite straight forward, I agree with you, in principle. Hariri needs a great deal of maturity to be able to ‘play’ with the likes of SHN, Berri, Jumblat, Aoun et al. He would even be challenged ‘playing’ with a couple in his own camp.

    Practically speaking however, when SHN said what he did, he not only meant it but felt that the Hizb and the rest of the then-opposition have enough at their disposal to actually do it i.e. govern alone. That said, it remains a matter of speculation whether they would succeed or not.

    Apart from all that I am somewhat mystified (and it is not the first time, nor would be the last) as to the rationale behind the tactic, let alone the strategy, of this manoeuvre by Hariri (or his advisors, whatever the case may be); submitting a government proposal that he knew will not be acceptable to the other side, and has the potential of rubbing President Sulaiman the wrong way. Even Jumblatt counselled him against both steps.

    I hope that I am wrong; but could Hariri be waiting for something ‘major’ to happen regionally that will ‘soften’ the ground somewhat and improve his prospects of forming a cabinet that is more amenable to his purposes. Or…

    Does this double-move reflect certain ‘requests’ from outside the Lebanese borders; or is it simply that Hariri Played his hand when submitting the failed Cabinet proposal hoping that it would pass, and when it didn’t he had no option but to resign his mandate, only to be named again and we have to go through it all over again, for more than 73 days next time round.

    Regards

    Posted by QuestionMarks | September 10, 2009, 1:03 pm
  6. To make the obvious point: this is how things should work. But, they obviously don’t. A bare-bones Hariri coalition would inevitably clash with Hezbollah and its allies, creating a spiral of recrimination and accusations, eventually culminating in the pattern of riots, car bombs, and street-to-street fighting we know all too well. And, as Hariri, the US, and Saudi know, that’s not a fight March 14 can win.

    Posted by dbk | September 10, 2009, 1:10 pm
  7. By gain the confidence, you mean that the Chamber of Deputies would have to approve Hariri’s cabinet, correct? Is that a simple-majority vote?

    Posted by Evan | September 10, 2009, 1:18 pm
  8. The poll included with this post is interesting. Most respondents seem to have chosen the obvious answer, which would mean ordinary people could be ahead of the politicians in their thinking. An important question was left out from this poll and it should be the most appropriate choice for the situation. The question should be:
    Any new M14 PM-designate should refuse to negotiate with the so-called M8 as a group. Instead the PM-designate should only negotiate with those groups who are willing to commit to the government regardless of the position of their so-called alliance. In other words, you join us in government only if you break ranks. Otherwise, they should work as an opposition with their comrades in Parliament for 4 more years and try their luck again in future elections if they are so keen to have ministers?

    Another question should be added:
    M14 coalition should get at least 21 portfolios in a government of 30 ministers. In other words, the new government should not become hostage to the whims of those minister from the so-called opposition who can resign anytime and bring down the government. There will be no more than 9 ministries to be divided up between the President and the newly joining groups.

    Posted by mike | September 10, 2009, 2:42 pm
  9. For the record, the vote of confidence is a simple majority vote. However, I believe there is an extra-constitutional dynamic at play.

    Hizballah and FPM do not like the current status quo. On the one hand, it dilutes the effect of Shiite votes and on the other it gives the Prime Minister’s office a lot of the power that used to be invested in the Presidency.

    However, they’re willing to go along with the current system if they get enough privileges and ministerial power to compensate. The last change to the system took 15 years of civil war, so they figure a political ‘deal’ would be better than an all out constitutional fight.

    But if Hariri tosses them out of power, and uses the constitutional rules to do so, they’ll start getting more proactive at changing the rules of the game. And that is what Hariri is trying to avoid with the unity government formula.

    Basically, the current constitutional structure is not politically realistic. And judging by recent events, it seems the unity-government formula is another political failure. Neither lead to political stability.

    Personally, I would rather the opposition stay out of government and live by the rules like all us commoners and not count on a political ‘wasta’ to make life tolerable. Maybe then they’ll get serious about pushing for better rules.

    It would lead to instability in the short-term, but there would be a happy ending. (Sorry, I missed commenting on the last post 🙂 )

    Posted by RedLeb | September 10, 2009, 4:19 pm
  10. RedLeb

    Personally, I would rather the opposition stay out of government and live by the rules like all us commoners and not count on a political ‘wasta’ to make life tolerable. Maybe then they’ll get serious about pushing for better rules.

    You always have a way of hitting the nail on the head. I agree 100%.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | September 10, 2009, 5:38 pm
  11. It seems everybody is forgetting the role of the president who has stated that he will NOT sign on any formation other than a National Unity government. Anyway the point is now mute as Jumblat just issued a statement saying that he will not be part in any one sided government. Hariri has no support his so called coalition is abandoning him one by one, even his stooges LF and Kataeb were not happy with his proposal. Now Fattouch is out of the coalition (talks about a fattouch/skaff list in the municipals)
    Saad should swallow his pride and form the government that he can.

    Posted by elsheikh | September 11, 2009, 9:10 am
  12. Do you think the PFLP-GC fired those rockets into Israel today?

    Those cats over at Blogging the Casbah seem to think so: http://bloggingthecasbah.blogspot.com/2009/09/from-lebanon-to-israel-was-it-pflp-gc.html

    Posted by Abu Guerrilla | September 11, 2009, 12:19 pm
  13. I am glad to see Mr. Hariri -for the best of himself and others- to “make like a tree and ‘leave'” because anyone in government- who truly wants what is best for others- never succeed because of all the other corrupted people in government seats. It is better for him to not be mingling with the hardhearted ones.

    ~K~ Best Wishes.

    Posted by kay | September 11, 2009, 1:39 pm
  14. The Lebanese formula has never worked. Lebanon has been living a lie ever since its modern creation and as a result we have always looked at manifestations of the problems rather than the root cause of what ails us. It is true that political feudalism and confessional representation ,under any guise are, must be dispensed with but such a change will not work if it is from the top down. Meaningful political and social change must be from the bottom up. And that is the unique Lebanese problem , my friends. There is no Lebanese citizenry that is worthy of the name. Democracy does not work in a vacume, it depends totally on the acts of an educated, responsible and active citizenship. Until the acts of politicians start generating public outrage and demonstrations then we have no right to expect anything beyond business as usual from both sides. If we think that the Levanese system is broken then it will not be made whole through the acts of others but we have to stand up and demand accountability, we have to demand a Lebanese identity, we have to lead our lives as if the structure of society matters. If it doesn’t then why even pretend that there is a sovereign independent state when it is neither sovereign nor independent.
    Ours is not only a crisis of leadership but one citizenship.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | September 11, 2009, 3:06 pm
  15. QN,
    you said that
    Hezbollah offered his opposition a blocking third , Did Hariri offer the same to Hezbollah

    Posted by norman | September 11, 2009, 8:37 pm
  16. Am I permitted to borrow the image of the wheat and cow tied to the post at the top of this page? I do find it pretty.

    ~K~

    Posted by kay | September 11, 2009, 9:44 pm
  17. RedLeb (#9) in response to Evan (#1, #7):

    “For the record, the vote of confidence is a simple majority vote. However, I believe there is an extra-constitutional dynamic at play.”

    For the cabinet to gain the vote of confidence from the parliament, the Lebanese Constitution states that a majority vote is needed without any clear specification if it were a simple one or a 2-third majority. However, several Articles within Section I clearly state that to withdraw confidence from the cabinet, a 2-third majority vote is needed. Unfortunately, this is one example of the many loose ends in the Constitution. On a number of issues, the Taif amendments seem to have added to the confusion rather than resolving it.

    “However, they’re willing to go along with the current system if they get enough privileges and ministerial power to compensate.”

    RedLeb and also a general response to QN’s post:

    What HA, the FPM, and the multiple parties/groups that form the opposition are asking for are not privileges in the meaning of favors, extended benefits, or “impossible demands” as the other camp is advertising. They are simply demanding their RIGHTS and the rights of the constituents they represent.

    Again, they have 57/128 MP seats backed up by winning the popular vote. In their capacity, they represent the overwhelming majority of the Shia community and one can safely say at least 1/2 the Christian base in the nation. As such, according to “Al Mithaq Al Watani”; i.e. the unwritten National Pact and based on constitutional mandates such as the one in the INTRO and in article 95.3, “…The confessional groups are to be represented in a just and equitable fashion in the formation of the Cabinet…”, I believe they’re simply asking for their rights. If a party such as FPM which has the 2nd largest bloc in parliament can not make a choice on the names of the ministers it’s supposedly allocating to the cabinet (and whose actions and performance would reflect on the party’s competence in the first place), then what MP Hariri is extending is anything but “a hand of partnership”.

    “Personally, I would rather the opposition stay out of government and live by the rules like all us commoners and not count on a political ‘wasta’ to make life tolerable. Maybe then they’ll get serious about pushing for better rules.”

    Could you (RedLeb and QN) please elaborate on how do you think that the opposition parties by subjecting themselves (and by extension those they represent) to be fully sidelined they’d be in a more favorable stance to “push for better rules”.

    Additionally, should the opposition follow your suggestion, how long would it take for such a change to occur? 4 more yrs, 4 more decades?

    I don’t know about you RedLeb; but QN if you’re willing to await that kind of change “cozily ensconced” on some floor of Harvard’s Widener library while charming us by moderating the most entertaining Lebanese politics blog (and getting a PhD in the meantime), simply many Lebanese do not have that leverage. Many have waited for way too long. Many I know have passed away waiting for that kind of change.

    Best.

    Posted by PN | September 11, 2009, 10:58 pm
  18. You see , QN, why the Lebanese and particularly those misfits like the FPM’s deserve لضرب بـ”صرماية”. What kind of conceited mind can produce such nonsense like this incosequential PN condescending on a serious Harvard Phd candidtate? Making a story short, do not hesitate to use the صرماية with such empty-headed arrogant orange معفّن

    Posted by mike | September 12, 2009, 3:53 am
  19. Mike

    PN is not inconsequential, and let’s keep the discussion focused on the issues and not the personalities.

    w ma khass Harvard wala bey bey Harvard bi-l-2adiyeh 😉

    PN,

    1. On the issue of gaining the confidence of the cabinet, the well-established custom is that you need half of the parliament. If you needed two thirds, the opposition could have extracted many more concessions from Hariri in exchange for nominating him.

    2. As for the issue of “RIGHTS”… this is the crux of the matter. You interpret the National Pact and the rather vague language in the Constitution about “just and equitable” representation to mean that the FPM and Hizbullah/Amal are not currently being given their rights.

    But you (and the opposition in general) need to be far more specific about what you think the Constitution says. You can’t just complain until you get the deal you want. If Gebran Bassil becomes Telecom minister, would the Christians of Lebanon suddenly have their rights restored?

    If it’s a matter of principle, then what is the principle that you want to see adopted? Proportional representation? Are you willing to have the Constitution changed and let all future cabinets be formed according to that principle? Is that really the model that you think Lebanon would benefit most from?

    It doesn’t much matter to me if C&R is the second biggest bloc in parliament. In other countries, the second biggest bloc (and in some countries, like Israel, the biggest bloc) often has no say whatsoever.

    Maybe what we need to do is hold a little online constitutional convention here on the blog and really see what people are envisioning, as far as cabinet formation is concerned.

    I have the feeling that if the tables were turned, Aoun would not be bending over backwards to accommodate the demands of Hariri. He would be making him fight for every last benefit, huwwe wal mitha2 al-watani taba3o.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | September 12, 2009, 7:27 am
  20. PN

    On this point:

    “Could you (RedLeb and QN) please elaborate on how do you think that the opposition parties by subjecting themselves (and by extension those they represent) to be fully sidelined they’d be in a more favorable stance to “push for better rules”.

    This is a good question, but it’s one that every opposition party in every democracy in the history of the world has had to face. The Lebanese opposition is no different.

    Political oppositions in different countries have different avenues of resistance and opposition open to them. For example:

    1. Higher voting requirements on certain issues (as in the Lebanese case, on the “issues of national importance”)

    2. Legislative committees, which allow for inter-bloc cooperation.

    3. Constitutional courts (i.e. using the independent branch of the judiciary to challenge the authority of the parliamentary majority)

    4. Filibusters

    At the end of the day, your goal as an opposition is to present an appealing alternative to the existing government, such that you are well-positioned to win the next election.

    Look at the current health care debate in the U.S. Obama theoretically has the votes to push through the health care bill of his choice, but the Republicans have succeeded in completely detonating the entire initiative by mobilizing the country against “socialized medicine” and by effectively lobbying more conservative members of the Democratic party against Obama’s plan.

    By contrast, if you insist on bending the rules to increase your power within the current system, this has two unfortunate consequences:

    1. Weakening the institutions of government and further draining them of confidence.

    2. Making it even more difficult to achieve structural change, since more political players become invested in the system and all its deficiencies.

    My two cents.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | September 12, 2009, 8:39 am
  21. I fail to see the purpose of having an election in the first place if the loser is guaranteed a veto ahead of time. This is a recipe for disfunctional governance to say the least, as the winners can’t even implement their program to be judged on by the electorate for the following election.

    This unity government model with all of its trimmings (guarantees ahead) is useless, and in my view, the money spent on the elections would have been better spent on more worthy causes, like education or health services, etc.

    Chi 3ajeeb!!!

    Just my 2erchein

    Posted by Ras Beirut | September 12, 2009, 10:24 am
  22. QN,

    Something funny is going on. Certain contributions have been deleted. I trust it is not an exercise in ‘editing’ on someone’s part!

    Regards

    Posted by QuestionMarks | September 12, 2009, 11:11 am
  23. Of course, the political situation is being taken advantage of by the usual fanatics…

    http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=atFscAnDanLA

    Posted by Akbar Palace | September 12, 2009, 12:01 pm
  24. QuestionMarks

    Not sure what you mean. I checked the spam folder, and nothing is awaiting moderation.

    Did you try to leave a comment that didn’t come through, or did someone leave a comment that appeared earlier but has now disappeared?

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | September 12, 2009, 12:08 pm
  25. QN 25,

    I contributed a definition of what you deemed to be a non-word. Neither my contribution nor the initial one were poeted. It could be my laptop playing games with me; though I doubt it!

    Rgards

    Posted by QuestionMarks | September 12, 2009, 12:20 pm
  26. QN 25,

    I meant ‘posted’; sorry.

    Regards

    Posted by QuestionMarks | September 12, 2009, 12:21 pm
  27. @QuestionMarks 26

    It’s not your laptop playing games with you; it’s your mind.

    You posted those comments on a different post. 🙂

    See here

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | September 12, 2009, 1:24 pm
  28. QN and QuestionMark,
    I believe that Question Mark is referring to his post regarding epistemology. He has posted his definition to a different thread. Anyway, I could not believe that QM seriously thinks that graduate students do not know what is epistemology? I expect all my freshmen to know it 🙂

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | September 12, 2009, 1:27 pm
  29. QN 28,

    QN 28,

    Thank you for your quasi-psychology; regarding my mind

    Epistemology: Theory of knowledge – the branch of philosophy that studies the nature of knowledge, in particular its foundations, scope and validity.

    Regards

    Posted by QuestionMarks | September 12, 2009, 1:32 pm
  30. QuestionMarks

    I was just teasing, both about your mind and about pistachios, etc.

    -Elias

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | September 12, 2009, 1:41 pm
  31. QN 31 (or Elias),

    Quasi-psychology doesn’t befit you; I mean beneath your level of education, unless you chose it as a way ‘out’!

    Regards

    Posted by QuestionMarks | September 12, 2009, 1:46 pm
  32. Ammo Norman

    Hizbullah and its allies got a de facto blocking third in the 15-10-5 formula because one of the President’s ministers could be counted on to resign if it came to that.

    Kay,

    Sure, you can use the image, but please use the following attribution information:

    Header image info: detail from “Two Men in a Boat”, Gorlizki Riyaz 2005. Origin: Brooklyn/Jaipur.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | September 12, 2009, 3:37 pm
  33. QN,

    Couldn’t they find something to agree on , Like better streets , health care , economy jobs , they should just decide that Hezbollah will not attack Israel first and that Hariri and his company will not ask for Hezbollah arms , and work on all other issues for the good of the people of Lebanon , It looks like they are fighting over seats for the heads , not policies .

    Posted by norman | September 12, 2009, 7:30 pm
  34. QN (#20, #21)

    – “On the issue of gaining the confidence of the cabinet, the well-established custom is that you need half of the parliament.”

    So, it’s a custom then. As such, it would only be fair to show similar advocacy when “customs” are not being respected by the other side?

    – “If you needed two thirds, the opposition could have extracted many more concessions from Hariri in exchange for nominating him.”

    Maybe. In my opinion, following the June elections, and in good faith, the opposition had no objection on nominating MP Hariri as prime minister simply because he has the backing of the majority of the Sunni community in the country. The distribution and the composition of the cabinet portfolios on the other hand have to align with point #2.

    QN, regardless of what the custom is, considering that a simple majority is sufficient for gain of confidence and a 2- third majority is mandated for withdrawing confidence seems to me like a forced partnership. It’s like getting married with the consent of 1 partner but requiring the approval of both to call it off. Like many other aspects of our messed up system, it does not make any sense.

    What’s your take on this?

    – “You interpret the National Pact and the rather vague language in the Constitution about “just and equitable” representation to mean that the FPM and Hizbullah/Amal are not currently being given their rights. But you (and the opposition in general) need to be far more specific about what you think the Constitution says. You can’t just complain until you get the deal you want.”

    Ya Elias, being a descendant of Deir-el Ahmar and having inherited an impressive set of Math genes, you surely would not need me or anyone else to provide you with the respective meaning for “just” and “equitable”.

    The opposition has been specific on what this means; i.e. fair and impartial representation. In other words, proportional representation in that each bloc in parliament gets a proportional number of cabinet portfolios while taking into consideration the quotas for the 3 largest confessional groups to conform with the Mithaq (27 C&R bloc MPs would mean 7 cabinet seats). So, it’s really simple Math and there is not much vagueness about the matter. Since the other side had too much trouble accepting these terms and they waged a media and public campaign accusing us of making “impossible demands”, we settled for 5 cabinet seats. However, for MP Hariri to go as far as choosing and naming our allocated ministers without our consent, then again he is offering anything but “a partnership”. Even, some of this current allies had a problem swallowing this style.

    – “If Gebran Bassil becomes Telecom minister, would the Christians of Lebanon suddenly have their rights restored?”

    e, you truely believe that the issue is about MP G. Bassil? are you kidding?

    – “If it’s a matter of principle, then what is the principle that you want to see adopted? Proportional representation? Are you willing to have the Constitution changed and let all future cabinets be formed according to that principle?”

    I believe I already answered this question above. When it comes to cabinet formation, this principle lies at the heart of our Constitution. It was not implemented in the past 3 decades because of the warring groups and then they blamed the “unjust and inequitable” governance during the 1990-2005 period on their inability to have a say due to the Wisayeh Factor. Apparently, we’ve blamed too much on the Wisayeh since they seem to have continued with the same style since 2005. Not only that, but some seem to have kept the same language such as the one used in post #19.

    – “Is that really the model that you think Lebanon would benefit most from?”

    QN, I happen to agree with you, with Ghassan, and probably many readers of this blog that our model needs reform if not a complete re-shuffle. Am certainly no expert to provide you with what would be the best model. However, by the time the collective effort of our constitutional experts lays down a good model that would be embraced by the people (and I agree with Ghassan here that we’re way behind in grasping and embracing the notion of citizenship in Lebanon); i.e. under the current system, the opposition and the constituents it represents are only demanding their rights.

    – “It doesn’t much matter to me if C&R is the second biggest bloc in parliament. In other countries, the second biggest bloc (and in some countries, like Israel, the biggest bloc) often has no say whatsoever.”

    But, it “matters to me” and to many others who live in Lebanon; not in Israel or any other place on planet Earth.

    – “Maybe what we need to do is hold a little online constitutional convention here on the blog and really see what people are envisioning, as far as cabinet formation is concerned.”

    Yallah. Go for it; am your #1 fan m3-enno sometimes you raise my blood pressure max.

    – “I have the feeling that if the tables were turned, Aoun would not be bending over backwards to accommodate the demands of Hariri. He would be making him fight for every last benefit, huwwe wal mitha2 al-watani taba3o.”

    Funny. e, over a dozen occasions on/off this blog, you’ve based your criticism of GMA on feelings and perceptions. Again, give us a chance; we may surprise you and even surpass your expectations.

    Btw, similar proposals to the ones you suggested in post#21 are already incorporated in our C&R political program (doc can be downloaded from tayyar’s main page). Hopefully, one day you & I can witness their translation into reality in the beloved homeland.

    Best.

    Posted by PN | September 12, 2009, 7:48 pm
  35. PN

    1. On the one third/two thirds thing… I don’t really have a take. I’d have to think about it.

    2. “When it comes to cabinet formation, this principle [or proportional representation] lies at the heart of our Constitution.”

    We’ll have to agree to disagree. If it actually did lie at the heart of the Constitution, then the Constitution would be very specific about it. All the Constitution says is that a government should not violate the principle of “communal coexistence”. This is extremely vague. When it comes to cabinet formation, the Constitution is much more specific: the Prime Minister forms the cabinet together with the President, in consultation with the parliament.

    What I meant by “it doesn’t matter to me…” is nothing personal, or even connected with the C&R bloc per se. What I’m interested in is finding the most effective and fair system of government for Lebanon. In my opinion, national unity governments have their time and place (usually following war and during times of national emergency). I don’t believe in ENSHRINING the national unity model in our constitution (either via a new amendment, or by trying to claim that this is what the Constitution ALREADY says) because this will condemn Lebanon to a future of mediocre, do-nothing, stagnant cabinets that have no impetus to push through any reforms.

    A dynamic and active political opposition is a crucial element for successful democracy. By getting rid of the opposition, you are getting rid of one of the principal agents of change.

    This isn’t 1993, when the FPM was completely disorganized and mostly ineffective fighting the Syrian hegemony of Lebanon. You guys are a major force to be reckoned with today. You’re young, well-funded, extremely organized, well-educated, and media savvy. You also came very close to winning the last election, but fell short because your allies placed the ENTIRE onus on you to come up with the votes to win FOR THEM.

    Now it’s time for you guys to reconsider political strategies. If I were in the FPM, I’d want to stay in the opposition, and make the next four years a living hell for March 14. I’d start campaigning for the 2013 elections from now, pointing out every flaw in every cabinet session, and finding ways to woo Hariri’s allies away from him.

    But that’s just me. Maybe I’m naive.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | September 13, 2009, 4:02 pm
  36. PN,
    I don’t think article 95, item 3, section a of the constitution (when did we get so lawyerly?) necessarily means that they get proportional representation in government.

    ‘The confessional groups are to be represented in a just and equitable fashion in the formation of the Cabinet.’

    To give some examples of the ambiguities:
    1. What do we mean by confessional groups? Is it the parties that claim to represent sectarian communities? The ones that got the most votes? The clergy? Or just any member of those confessional groups?

    (Note that the President must be a Maronite, but that has not been translated into ‘the Maronite with the largest popular Maronite vote’.)

    2. What does represented mean? That they get a seat? That they get a veto? That they get one of the ‘sovereign’ ministries?

    3. What do we mean by just and equitable? Do they get the same number of seats? Do they each get a veto (can we have THREE ‘third plus one’ blocks)? Do they get proportional representation according to their number of MPs?

    So its not so cut and dry. There are several interpretations. What worries me about yours is that you have equated ‘confessional group A’ with ‘party that got confessional group A’s votes’. That line of thought leads to sectarian federalism, and I hope you don’t want to go there.

    Also note that just before article 95.3.a is the phrase ‘During the transitional phase’. That being our transition to a non-sectarian political structure. I fear if the opposition’s demands are met, this transitional phase will go on forever. If the opposition is politically satisfied with the status quo, why would they change it?

    Posted by RedLeb | September 13, 2009, 4:58 pm
  37. Hey QN,

    You made a very compelling case on some points. However, I still don’t see eye to eye with you on a number of issues, AND ofcourse we can “agree to disagree.” If that was not the case, you would not see my signature on this blog.

    – “When it comes to cabinet formation, the Constitution is much more specific: the Prime Minister forms the cabinet together with the President, in consultation with the parliament.”

    Well, it is quite obvious that the President was as nearly surprised/disappointed as the rest of us with Hariri’s uni-lateral move by handing him the typed cabinet list; all names and everything enclosed, then simply asking him to sign. So, the young Hariri took over 73 days to come up with his list inbetween trips to KSA, a meditation break in EuroDisney, and oh… some highly efficient 4hr-session with a previous US official at the UN who just happened to land in Beirut less than 24hrs before Hariri’s move. Then, he suddenly became exhausted and was not willing to give the man; i.e. the President, the 2 weeks the Constitution gives him to make a decision on it. He literally expected him to just sign in 48hr or “he’ll make like a tree and leave”. Many journalists pointed out that the President felt left out by Hariri’s move and no one heard any statements declining the above issued from Baabda or Beit-el Deen (the President’s summer resort). To the contrary, the leaked statemnets suggest otherwise.

    Still, I would very much appreciate it if you were to tell us what YOU think article 95.3.a means and specifically how you see Hariri’s proposal as “fair” and “equitable”.

    – “In my opinion, national unity governments have their time and place (usually following war and during times of national emergency). I don’t believe in ENSHRINING the national unity model in our constitution (either via a new amendment, or by trying to claim that this is what the Constitution ALREADY says) because this will condemn Lebanon to a future of mediocre, do-nothing, stagnant cabinets that have no impetus to push through any reforms. A dynamic and active political opposition is a crucial element successful democracy. By getting rid of the opposition, you are getting rid of one of the principal agents of change.”

    To a large extent, I very much agree with your statement; not that Lebanon has not been chronically “condemned to mediocre, do-nothing, stagnant cabinets that have no impetus to push through any reforms”. Having said that, don’t you think that under the current circumstances (local, regional, as well as international) Lebanon is very much at a cross-road and is in dire need for a National Unity Government? With the turmoil the country has passed through since 2005 from assasinations, the July war, Nahr-el Bared clashes, Feb 2006 events, May 2008 …etc. Even more alarming is the extreme polarization in the country with an acute state of mistrust between the various groups that is threatening to become clinical. Add to this highly flammable ambience, all the regional challenges including possible peace deals that could be imposed on us at high costs. Under these circumstances, you truely believe that a unilateral government vs. a national unity one would make the country more immune and would provide better stability?

    – “This isn’t 1993, when the FPM was completely disorganized and mostly ineffective fighting the Syrian hegemony of Lebanon. You guys are a major force to be reckoned with today. You’re young, well-funded, extremely organized, well-educated, and media savvy.”

    Thanks for seeing us in this positive light and for the encouraging remarks. Just for the record, we were not “completely disorganized and mostly ineffective fighting the Syrian hegemony of Lebanon” back in 1993. With thousands of annual arrests, we did keep them quite busy at the time. I think you know what I mean 😉

    – “You also came very close to winning the last election, but fell short because your allies placed the ENTIRE onus on you to come up with the votes to win FOR THEM.”

    e, are you testing me? shou be-fikrak you can pull this one on me?

    Yes, along with the rest of the opposition, we did come “very close to winning the last election”, but we did not “fall short because our allies placed the ENTIRE onus on us”. I won’t go through the multiple conditions/factors that accompanied the elections. I think we’ve had enough discussions already on this subject and it would be best to wait and see what the Constitutional Council decides on the over dozen cases submitted for review.

    Elias, the FPM invested its energy in the recent elections with full understanding of where we stand, with whom we stand, and why. We waved away surmountable pressures before, during, and after the elections all of which were aimed at de-linking from our allies. We knew that the odds of winning together were quite high and we were very much aware of the potentially high cost that we may end up paying for not de-linking. Our relationships are not based on “maslaha” in the Lebanese sense of the word, but rather a genuine will to truely translate the MOU into a solid platform via which we approach/deal with highly sensitive political matters that are of vital importance to all Lebanese. By doing so, we hope to go one further step into achieving our goals as a political movement aiming for change and reform.

    – “Now it’s time for you guys to reconsider political strategies. If I were in the FPM, I’d want to stay in the opposition, and make the next four years a living hell for March 14. I’d start campaigning for the 2013 elections from now, pointing out every flaw in every cabinet session, and finding ways to woo Hariri’s allies away from him. “

    you’re testing me again! Believe me, our intention has never been and will never be creating “a living hell” for anyone and certainly not for any March 14er. I find myself constantly having to remind others that the March 14 date is sacred to many of the Aouniyeh. A good number of us lost dear ones on this very special day many years way before 2005.

    Who knows though? If we’re forced to the sideline one more time (as MP Hariri hinted to in his statements today) and we find that we have to wait another decade, 2… to get to where we aim, then we may end up taking your suggestion to heart. As a matter of fact, I recall that shortly after the recent elections, Angry Arab and a couple of political analysts/journalists blasted us for not taking the mud-fight approach prior to the recent elections. To make the story short, they said things along similar lines to the ones you gave and that we should have opted for a daily list of the majority’s dirty laundry that has been piling up in the last 2 decades. Do you think this approach would have convinced some swing voters that we’re not gonna make anyone dress up in an Iranian-designed, Syrian-made, orange veil?

    – “But that’s just me. Maybe I’m naive.”

    Ya a3ni, you can be many things; naïve is not one of them.

    Salam.

    Posted by PN | September 14, 2009, 12:57 am
  38. Qifa Nabki

    Thank you very much, It’ll be mainly personal use, but I will keep the information listed just in case. ~K~

    Posted by kay | September 14, 2009, 4:04 am
  39. RedLeb:

    Much thanks for your feedback; an interesting take on the subject matter.

    – Regarding the “ambiguities” you mentioned, I think that the most straight forward way to interpret the respective terms of “confessional groups”, “represented”, “seat”…etc. is to define them as they appear similarly somewhere else in the text of the constitution. Yet then, some words may have a slightly different meaning depending on the context they fall in. As such, one can make the case that the whole constitutional text requires clarification which would bring back everyone to SQUARE ONE!

    – As to the meaning of the words “just” and “equitable”, as I said earlier, we understand them in their simple direct terms as “fair” and “impartial”. However, going over your list of question marks, I can clearly understand why you see it as “not so cut and dry”. But, I still don’t get it how would it be “just” and “equitable” according to the terms they’re offering us.

    – “There are several interpretations. What worries me about yours is that you have equated ‘confessional group A’ with ‘party that got confessional group A’s votes’. That line of thought leads to sectarian federalism, and I hope you don’t want to go there.”

    RedLeb, as a Lebanese and as an FPMer, I certainly would not want to go there. However, what you stated above has been the name of the game since the First Republic and all through out “the transitional phase” to the Third Republic (the one you quoted); a phase that we’re still stuck in since 1990. I fully understand your concern/ “fear that if the opposition’s demands are met, this transitional phase will go on forever”, but do you think it is fair that you guys expect us to float secular while the overall system including the ruling majority is sailing on the sectarian boat? By subjecting ourselves to stay on the sidelines and assuming the sole role of opposition, wouldn’t it concern you that another 19 yrs may fly by and we would still find ourselves in the transitional phase in 2028?

    Anyhow, should we take your suggestion/stay out of gov and keep fighting for change from the sidelines, can we count on your supporting vote in 2013? am just wondering!

    Best.
    PS: for the record; am not a lawyer.

    Posted by PN | September 14, 2009, 4:13 am
  40. Gafi Nabki…. you may wish to consider PN when he say’s to “agree to disagree” with each other, it makes for a sweet friendship in that way. ~K~

    I will now try to stay out of the argument. I will likely fail in that regard. ~K~

    Posted by kay | September 14, 2009, 4:37 am
  41. Sorry, ‘Qifa Nabki’ forgive me for misspelling your name, please.

    Posted by kay | September 14, 2009, 4:38 am
  42. On to more immediate concerns (!), I see the Israeli government is threatening to respond “massively” to the rockets most likely fired by Palestinians from Lebanon and into Palestine/Israel.

    It never ceases to amaze me the racist cheek of the regime in Palestine/Israel.

    It is the Government of Israel that is, under any interpretation of human decency and international law, that is responsible for all of its own people – regardless of their race/confessional background.

    The Palestinians in Lebanon are the responsibility of the Government of Israel.

    If these Muslim and Christian Israelis that are taking refugee in Lebanon since late 1947/early 1948 continue to threaten all Lebanese with “massive” bombardment by an out-of-control regime, then it is time to invite them all to go back home – to Israel.

    Posted by Jean C Z Estiphan | September 14, 2009, 5:51 am
  43. Jean C Z Estiphan,

    do you know what it is like to be oppressed for no reason at all? Are you able to understand the stress that can put on a human mind and heart? It is comparable to the Japanese prisoners on death row, they do not know when they will be executed until the last minute, meanwhile they are boxed up in harsh conditions, this makes them insane, very literally, because they have no hope and also do not know how long they’ll live. People do insane thoughtless things when under such pressure, mindless suffering causes mindless pain to everyone- including -especially- innocent bystanders, because of the jealousy being harbored against the innocent-persons for seemingly having peaceful and perfect lives. ~K~

    Posted by kay | September 14, 2009, 6:05 am
  44. Jean C Z Estiphan Says:

    On to more immediate concerns (!), I see the Israeli government is threatening to respond “massively” to the rockets most likely fired by Palestinians from Lebanon and into Palestine/Israel.

    Jean C Z Estiphan,

    Let me guess. Israel is supposed to ignore missiles fired into Israeli population centers. Right?

    Not on this Earth.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | September 14, 2009, 8:40 am
  45. SP 45

    No, let me guess: Launch a wide scale tour of killing and destruction and use the lobbing of a couple of archaic missiles that did not hurt human or damage property as a pretext; but wait, Israel doesn’t need an excuse, it can come up with one at the drop of a hat! Remember the invasion of Lebanon in 1982!

    Regards

    Posted by QuestionMarks | September 14, 2009, 9:56 am
  46. SP 46,

    That’s right, firing missiles into Israel means you’re playing with fire.

    Good luck.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | September 14, 2009, 10:42 am
  47. why do people enjoy to be cruelly and overly sarcastic? That’s seriously annoying. I am very sure most people around here are intelligent enough to know what it is I am saying; this unnecessary crack at sarcasm only serves to reveal that people are suffering needlessly even at the hands of those claiming to care about good government.

    If such persons truly did care, they wouldn’t be such jerks when someone tries to help them see every point of view openly, I hate to close minded talk. You’re so called enemies are a part of your society whether you like it or not, none of you have ever tried to be compassionate despite risk involved. Yeah sure, you’re afraid to die, understandable, it is a natural fear, but, without empathy and sympathy you’ll get anywhere with anyone.

    A man transgressed against is like a tower, a fortress, or a strong wall, when you hurt him he becomes difficult to move, impossible to reason with. We all know how it is when we suffer hurt feelings, we become unwilling to be forgiving and unwilling to listen to any reason at all, simply because of pain, and many of us humans have sought revenge for pain caused.- Use that as food for thought when you are debating amongst each other and with your rivals. ~K~

    Posted by kay | September 14, 2009, 10:59 am
  48. excuse me, “without empathy and sympathy you’ll NOT get anywhere with anyone.” (sorry)

    Posted by kay | September 14, 2009, 11:02 am
  49. PN

    Busy today; will respond to you tonight.

    e

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | September 14, 2009, 11:53 am
  50. hmm… like you already…..

    Posted by kay | September 14, 2009, 11:56 am
  51. i’ll smoke whatever kay is smoking. could that be the shisha from QN’s cow!!!

    Posted by V | September 15, 2009, 1:31 am
  52. kay: I apologize if it sounded like I didn’t have sympathy for the stateless people that every Israeli government since 1948 has tried to “wish away”.

    I think it is terrible – not having a state that looks after you – simply because you were born the wrong race/confessional group.

    But we have to face the reality that there will never be a separate sovereign Palestinian state to look after them – there was a chance, but it was buried in the 1990s and gets further buried every day:

    http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=225704

    In the end, the Palestinians and the Israelis will have to live together in their combined State – two nations claim the same piece of land.

    Just like the 18 communities that make up Libanon have to learn how to make the system work. The job will be easier without getting periodically caught in the israeli-palestinian “cross fires”

    But after the decades of bombardment of southern Lebanon in the 1960s and 1970s, the tens of thousands of Lebanese civilians killed in the cross-fires between Israeli and Palestinian fighters (especially 1978, 1982-2000), it is hard to believe realistically that – if there is another significant outbreak of fighting – and if that it is triggered by a palestinian group – that there will not be a serious reaction from sections within Lebanon.

    The day will come when the stateless people that have been taking refuge in Lebanon since late 1947/early 1948 will be marched back across the border from where they came.

    In the end the Israelis and Palestinians are going to have to work out how to live in their binational state without violence, just as Lebanon is going to have to live in its multi national state without violence – I think Liban has a better chance to achieve this without getting dragged into that 100-year civil war that began in 1909 to be precise and continues at its quick pace.

    http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=225579

    Posted by Jean C Z Estiphan | September 15, 2009, 2:21 am
  53. Oh dear.
    I don’t smoke anything at all,
    I’m just naturally sweet. ~K~

    Posted by kay | September 15, 2009, 3:03 am
  54. Does Saad Hariri smoke at all?

    Posted by kay | September 15, 2009, 3:21 am
  55. not to be a sour puss, but, Jean C Z Estiphan, the entire world situation is getting worse, not better, and the only way it’ll ever see real peace is if people stop being rebellious and selfish and hurtful. I’m not saying there aren’t good persons around, there are many that I admire very much but am sorry to see their efforts go unfulfilled because the people they’re dealing just don’t have the same goals, and for those who do share the same goals, they’re just not educated enough to understand the situation clearly and become led astray -easily- by false companions, false peace seekers.
    Also, it is a very difficult thing to coerce hundreds to thousands of people to just stop being what they are ‘right now’ in order for things to get better, change takes a painstaking amount of time before improvements are seen, and most people are just too quick to be disheartened at the first sign of disappointment.

    All of this ties into having true hope, hope is like medication that heals wounds and lessens emotional pain, it provides people with a reason to endure and the ability to do so successfully, * but like you said, the government has failed to often for the people* and I think they feel no reason to have any real faith in human government. ~K~

    Posted by kay | September 15, 2009, 11:19 am
  56. oops, * but like you said, the government has failed TOO often for the people* (again, sorry for the error)

    Posted by kay | September 15, 2009, 11:22 am
  57. PN

    I think I’ve addressed some of your comments in my latest post. I’ll try to address others here later.

    cheers

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | September 15, 2009, 11:30 am

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  1. Pingback: Saad Hariri Resigns as PM of Lebanon « The Zeitgeist Politics - September 11, 2009

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