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

The Constitutional Backdrop to Lebanon’s Cabinet Deadlock

Not really the Lebanese Constitution...

Not really the Lebanese Constitution...

We hear a lot of rhetoric these days from FPM leaders about Saad al-Hariri’s arrogant unilateralism in his cabinet-formation dealings, a unilateralism that they say violates the constitutional principle of “communal coexistence” (Preamble, clause j). Accompanying this argument is the occasional complaint about the Ta’if Accord, which (so the Aounists say) stripped the Maronite President of his powers and vested them in the Sunni Prime Minister.

I’ve heard this argument so many times that I think it’s worth dedicating a post and a debate to it.  In my opinion, the Aounist position grossly oversimplies matters. Although the Ta’if Accord did give the Prime Minister the authority to form the government – free from binding parliamentary consultations – it did not turn him into an executive colossus, like the pre-Ta’if Maronite president.

Before Ta’if, the Prime Minister, the Council of Ministers, and even the Chamber of Deputies served at the pleasure of the President. He had the authority to appoint, fire, and dissolve at whim. The current powers of the Prime Minister are much more limited.

In particular, the Prime Minister’s ability to appoint a government is constitutionally checked in two ways:

  1. The President must sign off on the cabinet (Article 53.4);
  2. The Chamber of Deputies (i.e. parliament) must give the cabinet its vote of confidence before it can act (Article 64). This means that the premier cannot simply form the cabinet of his choice, as the Free Patriotic Movement leaders allege; he is bound by the demands of (at least half) the parliament, as well as those of the President.

As we saw last week, a Prime Minister’s cabinet proposal can easily be derailed by the Parliament if it fails to satisfy certain bloc leaders. Even though the Lebanese opposition did not have the votes in Parliament to block Hariri’s lineup, two of his own key allies – the Lebanese Forces and the Kata’eb – opposed it, thereby condemning his efforts to failure. What seems to frustrate the FPM is that their wishes don’t hold as much weight as the wishes of Hariri’s own allies, but this is surely not the fault of the Lebanese Constitution.

As easy as it is to be cynical about the standoff, however, it has brought many important questions about the architecture of Lebanon’s political system to the surface. With no Syrian hegemon around to herd cats and crack heads, we are finally seeing the Ta’if Accord put to the test, as Lebanese politicians try to exploit every ambiguity and apparent loophole in the Constitution to maximize their political gains.

This is a good thing. Under the best circumstances, it has the potential to force Lebanon to address structural problems of representation and democratic process, and to perhaps arrive at a better framework. However, this will only happen if the current crisis is framed as a debate about constitutional amendments — like Ta’if — rather than about one-time political deals — like the Doha Agreement.

The only person who can do this is the President of the Republic, who is the sole figure tasked with acting as the guarantor of the Constitution. If I were one of his advisors, I would tell him to insist upon the following principle: he should not sign the decree forming any cabinet unless the principle used to form that cabinet is enshrined in the Constitution as an amendment.

In other words, if the cabinet is formed using the principle of proportional representation (which is what the FPM is demanding) – where each bloc gets a share equivalent to its weight in parliament – then this should be the model used from now on. If blocs are given the right to choose their own ministers, then that’s what should happen from now on. And so on and so forth.

This will have the effect of forcing all sides to consider the long-term potential effects of their short-term demands. Does the FPM really want to strip the Prime Minister of the authority to form a government, thereby condemning every government from now on to be a national unity government, with all the deadlock and inefficiency that this entails?

If so, then what powers should be reserved for the Prime Minister to mediate effectively between all the different groups guaranteed seats in the cabinet? What principle should govern the distribution of portfolios? Who is the final arbiter?

As long as the Lebanese opposition continues to call into question the legitimacy of the Prime Minister’s powers — on the basis that they violate a constitutional principle of communal coexistence — they should be asked to present an alternative, in the form of a constitutional amendment. That way, we won’t have to watch this movie again four years from now.
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32 thoughts on “The Constitutional Backdrop to Lebanon’s Cabinet Deadlock

  1. It has always been clear to me that the root cause of the Lebanese political structure is due to its political sectarianism. Once that unjust, undemocratic, misguided , inefficient and openly discriminatory system is abolished from its roots then we will not have to ever discuss the issue of balance of power between Maronites, Sunnis, Shia, Marsians…

    Democratic republics can either have a strong presidential system a la USA, France Russia or a parliamentarian system a la Germany, Israel where the president is a figure that does not enjoy executive power.

    The Lebanese Presidency used to belong to the former group of strong Presidential system until Taif came along and replaced that with a much weakened version but yet it did not strip away all the presidential powers.

    Ultimately it makes no major difference whether a country chooses one form or the other. But what is essential is that whichever system is chosen the decisions should not be based on such superfluous and meaningless issues as ones religious beliefs.

    Method of prayer or non prayer should not be a prerequisite for any job outside of the religious community and as such we have to elect the best for each and every position including the presidency, head of the cabinet and speaker of the house. Under such an equitable system there would be no objections to ones gender, sexual orientation, colour of eyes or religious beliefs. Actually it might be that the three positions are won by hardworking Armenian women or maybe savy Druze men. It should not make any difference as long as they have a Lebanese political identity and as long as they strongly believe that there should never be any room whatsoever for religious beliefs in the public square.

    Any structure that does not satisfy the bare elements discussed in the above paragraphs is a system that refuses to recognize the root cause of the Lebanese pproblem. It is time that we have the courage to stop wasting time looking at manifestations and how we can get them to work. These manifestations are telling us that the only solution is radical surgery that is seriously needed if the patient is to survive.

    There comes a time when the whole system becomes riddled with anomalies and must be thrown into the garbage bin of history. That time is now.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | September 15, 2009, 12:15 pm
  2. It is becoming clear that there is something quite strange about Taef. I do not know if its creators understood this, but basically it gave the Sunnis the power to do things while it gave the Christians and Shia the ability to veto these actions. So Berri can close down parliament and Suleiman can decide not to sign the cabinet proposal. But they have no constructive power like the PM who actually runs the country on a daily basis. I can see why FPM would see Taef as unfair.

    However, the way they are acting is ridiculous. Aoun liked the Doha agreement and was confident of victory. After the loss, FPM is against Doha. Not a mature way to act.

    Posted by AIG | September 15, 2009, 12:38 pm
  3. AIG

    Good comment, but I don’t think it’s accurate to say that Ta’if gave the Sunnis the power to do and everyone else the power to obstruct.

    Because the Sunni PM has to depend on non-Sunni elements in his coalition, representatives of other sects can initiate legislation as well.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | September 15, 2009, 1:25 pm
  4. QN,

    True, but how likely is that legislation to pass without the support of the PM and his parliamentary block? Especially when the Christians are not united?

    Taef did not foresee 85% of the Sunnis supporting one party thus making the Sunni PM so strong.

    Posted by AIG | September 15, 2009, 2:12 pm
  5. True enough. But imagine if the situation was reversed, and the Christians were united while the Sunnis were completely divided. Then you’d have a situation where the President had the support of almost the entire Christian community, while the Sunni Prime Minister’s authority was challenged by half of the Sunnis. It would be very easy for the President to manipulate the Prime Minister because the latter would have to make concessions to the former just to be nominated (because the Sunni vote in parliament would be split).

    People would then be talking about how Ta’if did not foresee that the Christians would be so united, etc.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | September 15, 2009, 2:46 pm
  6. It’s funny to hear this egocentric fool Aoun describe Hariri junior as being arrogant and unilateral. Aoun, who is holding a whole country hostage so he can have his son in law become minister of telecom! talk about arrogance. I wonder how much more arrogant Aoun would have been had he won the elections.

    Posted by V | September 15, 2009, 3:08 pm
  7. QN,
    Try explaining that to the Aounies.

    Posted by AIG | September 15, 2009, 5:53 pm
  8. I think it is a mistake to take the FPM, its rhetoric and its demands at face value. Everything about General Aoun smacks of the ‘victim syndromme’ – he would have excelled in apartheid South Africa as an embitted Afrikaaner leader going on about how the British created concentration camps for his people 80 years ago – and how that therefore justifies apartheid 80 years later – or indeed he’d excell as a modern day Israeli politician claiming that the nuclear-superpower in the region is somehow threatened by Sudan or Iran – and that therefore that justifies an air/sea/land medicines/food/essentials embargo on 1.5 million Gaza civilians …

    What we all know is that Mr Aoun wants, needs and demands that the FPM be seen to be the victim in the government-formation process. He needs and wants to fail and to be seen to fail.

    The PM-designate doesn’t want to give him the opportunity to be the public victim, but at some point the Majority will have to form a government because – well, you do need to have a government, even if in Lebanon the central government really has never done very much and the country’s economic, social and cultural successes are in spite of rather than because of governmental action.

    Lebanon is the most successful country in the Arab League – and it has always had the weakest government. Long may that continue!

    And the Government has support on confidence and supply – it has the vote to put up a budget – that is guaranteed by AMAL and by Democratic Gathering MPs (there was an agreement with AMAL when Mr Berri was nominated as the Speaker by the Future Movement).

    Posted by C Z | September 16, 2009, 2:01 am
  9. QN,
    Good point about including the cabinet formula in the constitution. But will it suffice? What about the debate that extended over months about the quorum needed to elect a president? It is not clear yet, and now it is forgotten. What about the term “communal coexistence”? What does it mean really?

    If every issue is included in the constitution then it will become an operations manual.

    IMHO, the real issue is the interpretation of the constitution. Lacking an independent constitutional court, interpretations are mushrooming exponentially.

    But then try to create an independent constitutional court in a country where janitorial positions are politicized and pre-allocated based on the principle of ‘communal coexistence’. Tough job.

    Posted by XP | September 16, 2009, 5:12 am
  10. What’s happening QN? I believe this is the third entry in a month in which you seem to lash out at the FPM’s rhetoric. I agree with you that its rawness is often infuriating, but why insist on analysing the FPM’s rhetorical arguments alone, separated from their larger context (the rhetorical battle)? And why take the other side’s rhetoric as the framework within which you analyse the political game.

    I’m personally not interested in psychoanalyzing the FPM or GMA’s behaviour or speech. What I believe matters are three elements that have to be dealt with cautiously:
    the power game. In analysing it, we ask ourselves the following questions: what are the power centers, and how do they translate this power politically? I’m sure you agree with me that rhetorical battles do not necessarily reflect the power game. So one cannot base a political analysis on what is “said” unless the speech is performative (ex: a resignation that is accepted). But even that has to be analysed contextually, and not according to what is said.
    the institutional framework within which these power games are played. In analysing it, we ask ourselves what are the legal rules, how does one determine them, what authority interprets them? What are the informal rules, how are they expressed? Do they conflict with a formal text or not? All these are extremely difficult questions to determine.
    how these two elements interact. Now this is the most difficult element to analyse because it begs two questions: to what extent does the institutional framework influence the power game? And to what extent does the power game neutralise or bend out of shape the institutional framework?

    When one is analysing the constitutional backdrop of a conflict, I believe it is more interesting to start by gently putting aside the rhetoric and address the real issues, theoretical and practical.

    You make it seem as the best solution is to pen things in a constitution. But are texts that can be interpreted in many ways. You claim, for instance, that “the Prime Minister, the Council of Ministers, and even the Chamber of Deputies served at the pleasure of the President. He had the authority to appoint, fire, and dissolve at whim”. This is your interpretation of a text. But if you look at the way the text was followed (i.e. interpreted by the political players), you’d realise that the situation didn’t change much before and after Taef.
    – I don’t believe the President ever dissolved the Chambre of deputies. He didn’t even threaten to do it. As for the Cabinet.
    – The most authoritative President Lebanon ever had, Fuad Chehab, couldn’t choose his ministers at whim. The first time he tried, the country started slipping back to civil war. So he preferred to name the Ministers that the political class imposed on him and then circumvent their authority through the military intelligence.
    – As for the choice of Prime minister, most of the times, it was imposed on the President after a deliberation between the prominent sunni politicians. And I believe only twice the President dared to challenge that. Once under Chamoun and once under Gemayel (if my memory serves me right). And both times the government didn’t last long (because of the political pressure that ensued).

    Constitutional texts are important, but they are not always essential. Consensus on rules is what really matters. Even when there is a text, interpretations can differ so the problem is merely displaced (XP, comment # 8 has a very valid point). And when these interpretations do not differ, texts can bring in new habits and rules that are not fit to the changing circumstances. And in our case, we are not only talking about fast changing circumstances, but of extraordinary ones!
    In today’s republic, the representation of three communities is monopolised by 4 groups. This is absolutely new and contradicts the basic mechanisms of our electoral law (and the most probable outcome). One of these groups is armed. These are extraordinary conditions. And you cannot ignore them when searching for a solution.

    What use would a principle tailored to these conditions be when these extraordinary conditions change?

    and Why add a complicating factor – constitutional amendment – to a process that is extremely complicated as it is

    Posted by worriedlebanese | September 16, 2009, 7:58 am
  11. XP

    There is absolutely a need for an independent constitutional court, and this should be the mechanism used to settle problems of interpretation.

    But, as you’ve pointed out, creating an independent court whose legitimacy is accepted by all sides is easier said than done.

    This is why I think that the amendment gambit could be effective. Of course, it would never happen.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | September 16, 2009, 9:04 am
  12. Worriedlebanese

    I don’t regard what I’m doing in this post as merely analyzing “rhetoric”. It is precisely an analysis of the institutional framework and why certain players (i.e. the FPM) think they have grounds to circumvent it.

    As for your point about interpreting texts, this is well taken, but it’s also a bit of a cop out. You can’t just throw your hands up in the air and say: “Well there’s no point in worrying about what the Constitution says because at the end of the day, people will always interpret it differently.”

    As long as the Constitution is so easy to manipulate by political players, then it is not serving it’s proper function.

    Constitutional texts are important, but they are not always essential. Consensus on rules is what really matters.

    I don’t really agree with this. You seem to be making the point that we should:

    a) Look at the existing political conditions

    b) Try to establish consensus on a short-term working arrangement in order to manage the existing dynamics

    c) Continue to improvise as the situation changes

    d) Do not introduce annoyances like constitutional amendments because they only get in the way and serve as “complicating factors”.

    I have a different approach, as you can see. In my opinion, this improvisatory, consensus-based system is what allows Lebanon to careen from one crisis and legislative breakdown to another. In my view, the system is insufficiently clear about what the rules are on certain issues, the cabinet formation being one of them. The Constitution is perfectly clear on 90% of the other issues, and as such we don’t witness confusion and disagreements in those areas.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | September 16, 2009, 9:18 am
  13. Thanks for your dense reply QN.
    The point I’m trying to make is that we should start by determining the exact problem. And I don’t believe it has to do with the presence or the absence of a constitutional text. Just as much as I don’t believe the problem is to be found in the rhetorical battles between the so-called majority (that is actually a coalition of distinct and rival parties) and the so-called opposition (that is actually part of the government).

    My argument was a bit murky (in comment #10, I apologise for that. I’d like to rephrase a couple of ideas to clarify certains points and allow the discussion to go further.

    “Is there a thing as a clear text?” . This is the most hotly debated topic in contemporary constitutional theory. We better not get into that issue. Let’s stay practical. What matters is not the clarity of the text but that there is a consensus over its meaning, or an “authentic interpretation” that is enforceable.

    Let’s not forget that Michel Suleiman was elected president withstanding what seems to be a “clear” text: article 49-3 :”It is also not possible to elect judges, Grade One civil servants, or their equivalents in all public institutions to the Presidency during their term or office or within two years following the date of their resignation or their leaving office for whatever reason“.
    This was possible because there was a consensus over the fact that he should and could be elected, and because at the time Parliament was the only institution that could give an authentic interpretation of the constitutional text allowing such an election (one that couldn’t be legally disputed).

    How useful is the constitutionalising of political conduct ?”

    Now let’s look at another text, article 53-4 “He [The President] issues, in agreement with the Prime Minister, the decree appointing the Cabinet and the decrees accepting the resignation”
    and 64-2 “He {the Prime Minister] conducts the parliamentary consultations involved in forming a Cabinet. He [the Prime Minister] signs, with the President, the Decree forming the Cabinet”.

    These two articles do not really specify the procedure. They only speak of “consultation”. They do not say how these consultations are done. There’s a lot of room for debate, innovation or complacency: should these consultations take the form of an indirect vote (like it is done today)? Is it individual or should bloc representatives express their preference? Could MPs designate several candidates with an order of preference? Should they be obliged to designate a candidate…
    All these procedures are important, and disagreements can spring about as long as they are not fixed. So should they all be put on paper?
    How useful is it to pen down the rules that are contentious today when other rules that seem clear today will become contentious tomorrow. Coalition government formation are always about negotiations, and in these negotiations, bids are usually translated in legal terms (or pseudo-legal terms).

    Another example could be article 53-2 “The President designates the Prime Minister in consultation with the President of the Chamber of Deputies based on parliamentary consultations which are binding and the content of which the President formally discloses to the Prime Minister”.
    As you have said, this article could mean that the Prime Minister “cannot simply form the cabinet of his choice […] he is bound by the demands of […] of the President”. This could article could allow the President to participate in the designation of the Ministers (not only his “share”). But up to what extent? If Amine Gemayel, Samir Geagea or Michel Aoun were to become presidents, won’t this question arrise? The possibilities are endless. How many rules can you put in the constitution, and how many situations should you leave open to negotiation, common sens and reasonableness?

    All this to say is that amending the constitution to face immediate problems isn’t very useful because for the constitution to be amended, there needs to be a 2/3 consensus within the parliament, a vote that is harder to get than the vote of confidence (majority vote)! And this problem could simply not arrise in the future. Other problems might arise…
    So if one wants to be reasonable about amending the constitution to solve a crisis, one must start by locating the problem in analytical terms (and not political ones, such as “national unity government”. One better speak of coalition government… but then all governments in Lebanon have been coalition governments… and one can also speak of a government which enjoys a cross-communal representativity… which is what the Shiites duopole have been demanding since the break-up of the quadripartite alliance).

    So the main question is: What is the problem the country is facing?
    You pinpointed it (i.e. them) in you post:

    Eclipse of the Hegemon . The greater part of the political apparatus (leaders, followers, apparatchiks, counsellors, analysts…) learnt the political game during the Syrian mandate. One cannot quite speak of a constitutional game because the Syrian authorities acted as a hegemon outside the constitution (while the French authorities had acted within the Constitution and the Charter). This explains why our politicians are so bad at playing the constitutional game.

    Disputed principles . The Syrian authorities (in Anjar and in Damascus) followed a discretionary policy. They didn’t rule according to rules, but answered each problem according to their interest. This is probably why our political class is not used to rules. But this doesn’t stop it from inventing rules to serve its interests. You spoke of one example: the principle of proportional representation (that is brought up by the FPM). But there are others: the exclusion of failed candidates from the government (that is brought up by some groups within March XIV®). There is also the principle of the presidential share within the cabinet (recognised by everyone withstanding the fact that there is no constitutional base to it). And the list goes on. To cut it short, every party envolved in the process is transforming its demands into principles, and there is no “precedent” rule or a consensus on legal principles or political rules (or conduct).

    Absence of an arbitrator or a mediator . Michel Suleiman has up to now refused to play either roles. He can’t be expected to play the role of guardian of the constitution (his election is a flagrant breach of it, in political, not legal terms). And he can’t really be an arbitrator or even a mediator when he has to negotiate his own share of the cabinet (portfolio distribution and individual allocation).

    Tortuous political situation (that I have already dealt with in my preceding comment, Reply #10 and on my blog), further complicated by extremely poor analysis that works within the framework of the political discourse (that is tailor-made for the political class).

    Posted by worriedlebanese | September 16, 2009, 7:08 pm
  14. oooooouf

    Between you and PN, I’ve got my hands full replying to page-length comments. 🙂

    Will try to read this later tonight or tomorrow and reply.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | September 16, 2009, 7:18 pm
  15. Hi WL,

    Thanks for your insightful and articulate feedback. You just saved me the effort to draft a rebuttle and saved QN some headache from receiving another lengthy PN reply.

    “What’s happening QN? I believe this is the third entry in a month in which you seem to lash out at the FPM’s rhetoric.”

    wadeh, «العتب على قدّ المحبّة»; and he knows we have a magnanimous heart.

    QN, how is that for a short reply?

    Posted by PN | September 16, 2009, 8:57 pm
  16. CZ (#8)

    “even if in Lebanon the central government really has never done very much and the country’s economic, social and cultural successes are in spite of rather than because of governmental action.”

    anjad! are we talking about the same Lebanon with the near $60 billion national debt and over 60% poverty rate registered in some areas? ah…ma ykoun asdak Solidere!

    iza heik, as Charbel says -لشو التغيير;wu ayya

    Posted by PN | September 16, 2009, 9:13 pm
  17. I second QN with a long oooouf. What else do you expect from someone who argues only for the sake of argument? Futility at best!!! Waste of time and effort!!!
    Once again orange معفّن syndrome at work. Be aware.

    Posted by mike | September 17, 2009, 1:47 am
  18. @Mike
    Grow up.
    وزهئنا من الفرز والتجييش
    if you’re comfortable being in a camp, that’s great. I’m not interested in such a prospect. I’d rather think independently and stay away from party politics that I find unconvincing and threatening (in many ways in the present circumstances).
    If you prefer to rehash “ready-to-hurl” arguments, that’s you problem (And the country’s because it seems to be an epidemic).

    So keep your label and don’t stick one on my back.

    Posted by worriedlebanese | September 17, 2009, 3:45 am
  19. @WL:

    Whether you like it or not, you are in a camp. Having been reading your blog, you are not a typical Aounist in the sense that you do have intellectual material to put on the table.

    Yet again, you are close to the Orange party, and you will do everything you can to save its tarnished reputation; so you do earn that label on your back.

    As for your long comment, it seems as though you went in circles to merely create arguments in defense of the ongoing “war on the constitution and the legal entity of Lebanon”.

    Even if the constitutional text is unclear (which is the bulk of what youre basing your comments on) there is a mechanism for addressing that issue in the constitution itself, which dictates that the Parliament and only the Parliament is allowed to offer an interpretation for the allegedly unclear text.

    At the end of the day, if we believe in our country, it needs to have a constitution, and that constitution needs to be abided by. No well written or pleasant-to-the-eye arguments you make can change that.

    Posted by Purple Monkey | September 17, 2009, 5:52 am
  20. You make sense Purple. Nevertheless, constitutional experts are usually relied upon to present interpretations for the constitution not just the Parliament. In any case, your point about the person in question is still valid. He is neither a Parliamentarian nor a a constitutional expert, but as you correctly pointed out a circle tracer in polemics, squarely placed in the camp of the … orange. Amazing how some Lebanese of the orange color can convince themselves of their own lies and expect others to take them seriously.

    Posted by mike | September 17, 2009, 8:18 am
  21. @Mike #20
    @Purple Monkey #19
    It’s really fascinating to see how deeply entrenched baathist rhetorical reflexes and approaches have become in most sectors of Lebanese society.
    شئت ام ابيت (“whether you like it or not”) right?
    When something is enforced for over 20 years, it’s only normal to witness its lasting effect. A first step to liberation is acknowledgement.

    Who gave you the right to ascribe a political identity to me? If I identified with a party, I’d say it out loud. How consumed are you by hate to go on such a witch-hunt, deprive someone of a choice, enforcing a binary classification on everyone?!

    I just cannot understand how people can feel cosy in such a culture of separation and self-alignment (ثقافة الفرز والاصطفاف). You prefer cyber-soldiering to analysis, that’s your choice. You misunderstand my argument, that’s your problem (my argument was quite far from the statement you attribute to me that the “constitutional text is unclear”). You disagree with it, it’s great if you advance valid points. Unfortunately, they’re nowhere to be found.
    Soldiers don’t analyse, they either defend or attack. I was never a soldier and never will be.
    On this point, I seem to agree with this fellow

    Posted by worriedlebanese | September 17, 2009, 10:53 am
  22. [Editor: V, as a fan of cleanliness, why not keep your comments a little cleaner? Thanks.]

    While so many Lebanese intellectuals pontificate about the constitution and **** like that – I have an idea – why don’t you smart people spend some effort and time figuring out a way to help your fellow Lebanese in the most basic achievements of a society?
    How about teaching them to clean up their overflowing garbage and ****!! It is awful how much garbage there is everywhere you look in Lebanon and how about them polluted rivers and beaches it is just sickening
    And how about those basic traffic laws people !! I have never seen people so rude like the Lebanese drivers, the Lebanese driver is truly a reflection of how backward, rude, reckless and careless the Lebanese person can be and the women drivers are horrible offenders too.
    And how about learning how to stand in line at the bank or anywhere! When are you Lebanese geniuses going to achieve that huh ? Is it before or after you figure out the problems in the constitution.
    All in all Lebanon is nothing but a backward polluted ******** but the Lebanese think it’s the center of the universe!
    “bas shoo badak ya zalamee mafee a7la min hal hawayeet”

    Posted by V | September 18, 2009, 3:14 am
  23. Allow me to toss this out there and let’s see what sticks.

    The voters choose the President, the PM and the Head of Deputies.

    The VOTES of the Electorate is split 50/50 between Christian/Muslim/Secular

    The President, can be from ANY sect for 1 Six year Term. The PM & Head of Deputies from any sect for 4 year term.

    Suffice all the complications, could this be a more equitable way out of our National Morass?

    Posted by SL | September 18, 2009, 10:42 am
  24. SL

    What do you mean by:

    “The VOTES of the Electorate is split 50/50 between Christian/Muslim/Secular”


    Posted by Qifa Nabki | September 18, 2009, 10:53 am
  25. The idea is better formulated here: http://lebanesepress.com/the-lebanese-manifesto-a-cedar-for-all-seasons/

    “The solution is a distinct communitarian democracy system in which regardless of demographics, all communities, mainly based on sects, vote directly for a strong President (PM & Head of Deputies). The key here is that each of the major communities receives a maximum share of the total vote.”

    I’m suggesting adding Secular sect to the mix.

    Posted by SL | September 18, 2009, 11:22 am
  26. @ WorriedLebanese #13

    You make several very good points. This discussion takes us back to the old debate about how to read Lebanese political crises. In this case, we have two choices:

    1. “It’s about confessionalism, stupid!”

    This approach regards the current cabinet crisis (as well as the one that paralyzed the government from 2006-08) as rooted in a disagreement over how the country should be run (and what the Constitution has to say on the subject).

    2. “It’s about power, stupid!”

    This approach regards the crisis as one about power, not democracy or consensual politics or anything so lofty.

    My point of view is to assume that both approaches are right, in their own way. However, 99% of what you read in the press is written from the perspective of Approach #2 (portraying every Lebanese crisis as a power struggle between Syria and Saudi Arabia, Iran and the United States, Jupiter and Mars, etc.)

    What I’m trying to do is to draw attention to the other approach as well, which we never read about. As important as regional power dynamics are in our little country, they don’t determine everything.

    In other words, all (Lebanese) politics may not be local, but they’re not all global either.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | September 18, 2009, 3:52 pm
  27. @QN #26
    thanks for your reply (and sorry for the length of my comment).
    I agree with you, geopolitics is a national sport, and most analyses of Lebanese politics get lost in such an approach.

    My scepticism toward a constitutional based approach is not founded on a preference for a geopolitical one. I personally find most geopolitical approaches meaningless. The power struggle that I’m interested in is the local one. So instead of geopolitics or law, I’d go for a socio-political approach, especially in a country where informal (and contra-legem) rules have been expanding since the mid 1940s and have become prevalent.

    thanks for your efforts, and thanks for sharing your insights

    Posted by worriedlebanese | September 18, 2009, 7:31 pm
  28. V (#22)

    “All in all Lebanon is nothing but a backward polluted ******** but the Lebanese think it’s the center of the universe!”

    …”[Editor: V, as a fan of cleanliness, why not keep your comments a little cleaner? Thanks.]”

    Thanks QN; much appreciated editing.

    I do believe though that a minute # of your readers have anger management issues. To help them counteract their tendency to play their out-of-tune music at decibels louder than the majority of us would like to hear, I highly recommend a daily dose of something like the amazing “MADA” piece especially as performed by C. Rouhana and H. Siblini. The harmony between Charbel’s oud and Hani’s piano has a magic healing touch with no known side effects. Alternatively, Marcel’s masterpiece “The Qanoon Player” is guaranteed to attenuate all ailments; physical and otherwise.

    L’Shana Tova, Ramadan Mubarak, and a harmonious end of summer to all.

    …and oh, V; am not smoking anything either.

    Posted by PN | September 18, 2009, 10:21 pm
  29. Hey PN 28 thanks for the advice on anger management you should extend the same to the mad general, it may help your beloved Lebanon.
    ..as for smoking and since you are a Aoun fan i hope you enjoy a nice Aoun Presidential Cigar for the coming holidays 🙂

    Posted by V | September 18, 2009, 11:10 pm


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