Monthly Archives: August 2007

The Lebanese Constitution and the Ta’ef Agreement

By Ana and Mezzo

Given that many out there do not take the time to read these two essential legal documents, we find it appropriate to provide them to our readers, despite the fact that they are both easily found on the Internet.

lebanese-constitution.pdf

taef-agreement.pdf

Leave a comment

Filed under Lebanese Constitution, Lebanon, Ta'ef Accord

Are we mixing quorum with ballot?

By Mezzo

To say the least, many are mixing the two together which is creating a lot of confusion. In order to clarify the matter I shall start by reproducing several articles from Lebanon Constitution (this English translation reflects exactly the original arabic text) that are related to the QUORUM and to the BALLOT of the presidential election process. It is wrong to come up with any interpretation on the matter if one has no access or has not read the original texts. We clearly need to differentiate between QUORUM from BALLOT. Take note that article 34 deals with the quorum, and that article 49 deals with the ballot.

Article 34 [Quorum]
The Chamber is not validly constituted unless the majority of the total membership is present. Decisions are to be taken by a majority vote. Should the votes be equal, the question under consideration is deemed rejected.

Article 49 [Presidential Powers]
(1) The President of the Republic is the bead of the state and the symbol of the nation’s unity. He shall safeguard the constitution and Lebanon’s independence, unity, and territorial integrity. The President shall preside over the Supreme Defense Council and be the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces which fall under the authority of the Council of Ministers.
(2) The President of the Republic shall be elected by secret ballot and by a twothirds majority of the Chamber of Deputies. After a first ballot, an absolute majority shall be sufficient. The President’s term is for six years. He may not be re-elected until six years after the expiration of his last mandate. No one may be elected to the Presidency of the Republic unless he fulfills the conditions of eligibility for the Chamber of Deputies.
(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.

Article 73 [Election of the President]
One month at least and two months at most before the expiration of the term of office of the President of the Republic, the Chamber is summoned by its President to elect the new President of the Republic. However, should it not be summoned for this purpose, the Chamber meets of its own accord on the tenth day preceding the expiration of the President’s term of office.

Article 74 [Vacancy of Presidency]
Should the Presidency become vacant through the death or resignation of the President or for any other cause, the Chamber meets immediately and by virtue of the law to elect a successor. If the Chamber happens to be dissolved at the time the vacancy occurs, the electoral bodies are convened without delay and, as soon as the elections have taken place, the Chamber meets by virtue of the law.

Article 75
The Chamber meeting to elect the President of the Republic is considered an electoral body and not a legislative assembly. It must proceed immediately, without discussion or any other act, to elect the Head of the State..

By differentiating QUORUM from BALLOT, the text is clearly stating that the two-thirds majority requirement is for the first ballot and not for the quorum. I will take back an analysis I made in a previous post that illustrates that very point.

In this simple scenario we will take for granted what the March 8 coalition states that a two-thirds quorum is the only constitutional interpretation. Let us say that the majority has 51% (read: 50% + 1) of the members of the parliament and the minority 49%. If all of them go to the parliament, obviously the majority wins. Since the minority can’t get its candidate through, it decides to boycott the elections and the country has no president. Let us expand now the majority to 66% of the members of the parliament (1% short from the twothirds majority) and shrink the minority to 34%. The minority decides to boycott the election and we obtain the same result: no quorum, no president.

Who can believe that the Lebanese constitution is meant to say that 34% of the members of a parliament, that represent a minority in any democracy of these modern worlds, can simply paralyze a country? Nobody can, of course. This is why the minimum quorum required to elect the President of the Republic must be 50% +1 and no more. Should the March 8 tenors stop confusing themselves between QUORUM and BALLOT, they will ultimately resist this temptation of manipulating peoples’ minds.

Now to the question whether the March 8 politicians are aware of this differentiation, the answer is yes and this is why: Lahoud, Nasrallah, Ra’ad, Frangieh, Wahhab, Berri, and Aoun are daily panicking with the idea that the March 14 coalition would eventually elect a president with a simple majority. They know that they cannot stop it democratically so they turned their speech into a continuous flow of threats of civil war, civil unrest, and lately from Aoun: partition. The best part is that they want to make the March 14 responsible, up front, for a decision they plan to take after the 24th of November.

The March 8 politicians need to know that they can longer blame others for the decisions they take. With power and authority come responsibility and accountability. You will be held responsible and accountable for your decisions and actions.

Leave a comment

Filed under Aoun, Emile Lahoud, Hassan Nasrallah, Lebanese Constitution, Lebanese Presidential Elections, March 14, March 8, Nabih Berri, Sleiman Frangieh, Wiam Wahab

Initial reactions on Aoun’s latest mistakes

By Ana

General Michel Aoun slammed March 14 saying they don’t have a right to be decision makers. He also said that he represents the majority of the Christians and being shut out of the debate for the presidency is isolating the voice of the majority of the Christians. He also criticized the U.S.’s recent statement rejecting a president that is affiliated to a terrorist organization or foreign power.

1. March 14 is the majority and therefore is the decision maker by constitutional default;
2. The FPM and their leader need to re-check the Metn results: the only substantial Christian bloc that voted for Camille Khoury was Tashnag, and certainly not the Maronites (although I fully respect and advocate the view that the Maronites are not all the Christians); and
3. How can you, Aoun, support a president that has the carte blanche from Hezbollah (like yourself) when they are clearly a terrorist organization, one that you acknowledged back in 2002?
4. Lastly, Aoun equates the Shi’as with Hezbollah. How wrong he is. The Shi’as are more than just the political Shi’as of March 8.

The problem with demagogues is that they can never be consistent. It makes the fact that they have no logic too obvious.

For French readers, I highly recommend you read Carlos Edde: Le Fascisme. The article was published in L’Orient Le Jour last week. Fascism in a new light. Note to readers: Read between the lines, it’s a lot more fun.

2 Comments

Filed under Aoun, Camille Khoury, Free Patriotic Movement, Hezbollah, Lebanese Christians, Lebanese Shi'a, Lebanon, March 14, March 8, Tashnag

The quorum for a president

By Mezzo

Do we need to read the constitution in order to know what is the required quorum to elect a president for Lebanon? The answer is no. All we need to do is to figure out the routing that would take Lebanon through the hardest possible path and then we extract the answer. Indeed, every phase the country went through has been a hard one resulting from a sparking of differences in opinion between constituencies. To list the latest few:

1) Hezbollah’s right to kidnap Israeli soldiers off the border, triggering a war that makes half of the population traitors for not agreeing with it
2) The government is no longer constitutional because the Shia’a ministers resigned, thus giving the right for any community to quit in the future
3) Occupying the capital’s down town for 9 months is a naturally democratic means to topple any government in the world
4) Closing roads and burning tires is in the name of citizens’ freedom of movement and expression
5) Closing the door of the parliament is a privilege given by the constitution to the Speaker

This time it is the presidential election that is at stake, and the quorum is the manipulative tool that the minority will use to make Lebanon get another good chunk of hard times.

And the question remains: do we need to read the constitution in order to know what is the required quorum to elect the next president of Lebanon? Let us see if we can find the answer without going through the texts.

We will analyze a simple scenario whereby the majority has 51% of the members of the parliament and the minority 49%. If all of them go to the parliament, obviously the majority wins. So far, the minority in Lebanon has never acted as a minority, and therefore, would decide to boycott the elections: no quorum, no elections. Since the minority can’t get its candidate through, then let the country stay with no president, until the majority understands the minority’s meaning of democracy.

Let us extrapolate that same example whereby several parliamentary blocks put together 66% of the members of the parliament that are all in favor of electing the next president. The next block in size has 34% and decides to boycott the election: no quorum, no president.

Who can believe that the Lebanese constitution is meant to say that 34% of the members of a parliament, that represent a minority in any democracy of these modern worlds, can simply paralyze a country? Nobody can, of course.

This is why, and without reading the constitution, we can safely say that the quorum required to elect the President of the Republic is 51%. Surprisingly enough, the legal texts are in line with this conclusion.

5 Comments

Filed under Lebanese Constitution, Lebanese Presidential Elections

Diversity is democracy

By Ana

In the pro-opposition newspaper Al-Akhbar, the newspaper chairperson Ibrahim Al-Amine wrote on August 13:

If the majority team is more confused because of the abundance of candidates among its ranks, it is helped by the support of a large swathe of the Lebanese people and influential factions among the Arabs and the rest of the world while the opposition seems to be more comfortable with the fact that it has only one candidate, the head of the Fee Patriotic Movement General Michel Aoun who enjoys strong support from a large popular mass that includes more than half the Lebanese population.

I beg to differ.

Firstly, let’s get the facts straight. The only person from the opposition to officially endorse Aoun’s candidacy was Wiam Wahab who isn’t high enough in the hierarchy. His statement is simply not enough to make Aoun the official opposition’s candidate. I want to hear it from Berri. Even more, I want to hear it from Nasrallah. Yet, should we not hear the needed endorsement from such figures, that too will say a lot. Back on December 1, 2006, the opposition took for the streets and launched their first day of occupation over Downtown Beirut. Note that back then only Aoun was present. Berri and Nasrallah did not support the orange leader as he led on the Shi’a crowds (remember, few were the Christians who attended that day). Then, the implications of the absence of the Shi’a leaders was understood: they did not take Aoun seriously. Let’s see if they’ll take him seriously today.

Secondly, Aoun does not have the support of more than half of the population. If that were the case, why isn’t he majority leader in the Parliament?

Now let’s go back to Al-Amine’s above argument. He is suggesting that March 14 is unsure of itself whereas the opposition (read: FPM) is fully backing one candidate. My question: since when was diversity a problem?

March 14 is not a political party and therefore is not limited to the nomination of one candidate. The FPM is restricted by party regulations and therefore must nominate one candidate to avoid a conflict of interest within the party itself.

Given that March 14 is a cluster of different political parties and groups that do not have political party status, these different groups have the right to present as many candidates as they wish (of course within the rationale of some sort of meritocratic rubric). The result is the nomination of people like Boutros Harb and Robert Ghanem and perhaps in the near future Nassib Lahoud or Nayla Mouawad.

The fact that these people should feel comfortable nominating themselves within the March 14 democratic spirit is impressionable. They will be a source of competition for each other, and at the end of the day, will not insult or discredit each other. Furthermore, the losers of the elections will accept their loss in good team spirit and support the March 14 candidate that makes it through. This, Mr. Al Amine is democracy not confusion.

Leave a comment

Filed under Al Akhbar, Aoun, Boutros Harb, Free Patriotic Movement, Hassan Nasrallah, Ibrahim Al-Amine, Lebanese Presidential Elections, Lebanese Shi'a, March 14, March 8, Nabih Berri, Nassib Lahou, Nayla Mouawad, Robert Ghanem, Wiam Wahab

The habit of breaking the constitution: Forming a transitional government

By Ana

As is becoming increasingly common, breaking the constitution is another way for forging the easy way out of facing our country’s problems. Lebanese Army Commander Michel Suleiman presented himself, upon the recommendation of former Defense Minister Albert Mansour, as a candidate to head a transitional government should Parliament fail to elect a new president.

I have serious contentions to such a move:

1. On a psychoanalytical level, Suleiman is at the end of the day a military figure. The reason why Lahoud and Aoun are problematic is because they too are military figures. Lebanon today does not need a military figure to lead this nation.

2. What happened to the constitution? I invite my readers to actually read the constitution, which all too clearly stipulates:

[Chapter] III. The Executive Power
[Section] 1. The President of the Republic

Article 62 [Vacancy]
Should the Presidency become vacant for any reason whatsoever, the Council of Ministers exercises the powers of the President by delegation.

[Chapter] I. Election of the President of the Republic

Article 73 [Election of the President]
One month at least and two months at most before the expiration of the term of office of the President of the Republic, the Chamber is summoned by its President to elect the new
President of the Republic. However, should it not be summoned for this purpose, the Chamber meets of its own accord on the tenth day preceding the expiration of the President’s term of office.

Article 74 [Vacancy of Presidency]
Should the Presidency become vacant through the death or resignation of the President or for any other cause, the Chamber meets immediately and by virtue of the law to elect a successor. If the Chamber happens to be dissolved at the time the vacancy occurs, the electoral bodies are convened without delay and, as soon as the elections have taken place, the Chamber meets by virtue of the law.

Article 75
The Chamber meeting to elect the President of the Republic is considered an electoral body and not a legislative assembly. It must proceed immediately, without discussion or any other act, to elect the Head of the State.

Suleiman is seriously violating the constitution because nowhere is there any mention of the possibility to create a transitional government and under no means is he allowed to sideline the Seniora government, which is the only entity that can constitutionally take over the president’s extraordinary powers. By offering himself as an alternative candidate for an alternative scenario (i.e. transitional government), Suleiman is challenging Seniora’s legitimacy to rightly follow the constitution’s sole procedure should Parliament not convene. Since when does bypassing the constitution become a feasible option when the constitutional option of extending the Seniora government’s powers exists?

Suleiman’s visit to Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir now comes out as very problematic and begs the question, has Sfeir approved of such a legal violation? It is quite impressive how prone Bkirki is to fatal mistakes. No Lebanese shall forget the church’s serious miscalculations.

Additionally, the statements we have been hearing attempting to justify this move are beyond outrageous:

1. Mansour ridiculously stated: “Such a government would be in keeping with established practice, which is for a president to hand over power to a Maronite prime minister. It happened twice before.” My question to Mansour: since when does established practice take precedence over following the Constitution? I actually am not aware of the second scenario Mansour is referring to besides Aoun’s premiership when a Maronite headed a government so reader input would be great if you can provide insight on this. Nevertheless, Mansour is relying on a political episode like the time of Aoun’s premiership to justify the credibility of Suleiman’s candidacy. Is there anyone out there that actually calls Aoun’s premiership constitutional? History has proven that Aoun’s government was illegal from beginning to end.

2. Lahoud (read Syria) said in a statement that he would not hand power over to the present Cabinet: “I assure you this will never happen. This is why I am calling for the formation of a cabinet of national unity, because in case the presidential election is not held, this cabinet could run the country, simply because it represents all segments of our society.” Ultimately, it is clear who inspired Mansour to approach Suleiman. It is also clear that Suleiman got the green light and blessing from Lahoud to present himself as a candidate to replace him. Given that Lahoud is the official puppet, what does that make Suleiman, associate puppet?

3. Amal MP Ayoub Humayed, as well as his fellow comrades from the March 8 bloc have called the holding of parliamentary sessions as unconstitutional. However I have a question: It is also unconstitutional to not hold a parliamentary session to elect a new president. Therefore, which is more unconstitutional, holding the session or not electing a new president? And actually, according to the constitution, Parliament can convene under “its own accord” to elect a new president ten days upon the termination of the president’s term of office.

In light of my above analysis, I have these concluding remarks to make:

1. The commander-in-chief of the army is supposed to be a solid figure for unity. The army, at the end of the day, is what is currently holding this country together, and has, despite all odds, done a tremendous job. However, the moment you take the head of this institution and put him in Baabda, the army will no longer serve the Constitution and will therefore no longer serve the Lebanese people.

2. Suleiman’s self-appointment as candidate calls into question his true loyalty to this country. After all, Syria would want nothing more than to have control over Baabda and the Lebanese Army.

3. What does all of this mean for Aoun? Suleiman is a dangerous contender to Aoun’s bid for the president because both have the position of Army Commander on their CVs. Aoun can certainly not be happy with this development because he is sidelined, and God forbid his personal ambition for Baabda be contested! Ironic enough, I am looking forward to the FPM making a statement that Suleiman’s move is unconstitutional. Should they do so, they will in fact be only too right.

6 Comments

Filed under Albert Mansour, Aoun, Ayoub Humayed, Bkirki, Emile Lahoud, Fouad Seniora, Free Patriotic Movement, Lebanese Army, Lebanese Constitution, Lebanese Presidential Elections, March 8, Michel Suleiman, Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir, Syria

Replaying their cards, the opposition’s official backing of Aoun should raise some eyebrows

By Ana

Three months back, Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri had announced the three candidates he would consider elligible and legitimate to run for president. His list, he had said, represented the unified interests of the March 8 bloc. The three names were Boutros Harb, Jean Obeid, and Fares Boueiz. Berri had classified them as the only three candidates the March 8 bloc would be willing to vote for come November.

And yet yesterday, the cards changed: Berri reiterated that presidential elections should be held on time, Abbas Hashem called Aoun the modern Napoleon, and Wiam Wahab called Aoun the only candidate capable of replacing Lahoud. Let’s analyse this a bit more:

1. Wahab was talking on behalf of the March 8 bloc and called Aoun’s candidacy for the presidency legitimate and officially supported by the movement. He stressed that March 8 should not stop supporting his candidacy.

2. Wahab placed an ultimatum to his public: either Aoun or no one at all. This raises some questions. Does he not know that March 14 will never let Aoun take the presidency (and thankfully they can still guarantee this constitutionally because they hold the majority)? In otherwords, the most liable of the two scenarios is the latter. But will March 8 keep its word? “No one at all” means that the cabinet will take over the executive powers of the presidency. The cabinet of today and of November is the Seniora government. Is Wahab serious when he says that March 8 is willing to not have anyone as president? If so, they would constitutionally have no choice but to allow the Seniora government to take over all extraordinary authority. Eyebrows should be raised because Wahab did not refer to the looming scenario of a split government where the legitimate current government will be pitted against that of the minority.

3. Most importantly, how could it possibly be good for Aoun if he is equated to Lahoud? Wahab called Aoun the only capable politician able to replace the current president, saying the replacement “should be like Gen. Emile Lahoud: a resistance fighter and a believer in Lebanon and not in the orders of foreign embassies, a believer in the state and a believer in his people.” So basically, Aoun is capable of being another Lahoud: i.e. take orders from Syria, counter the tribunal efforts, move away from the West towards Iran and Syria, and guarantee that the country remain in economic dissmal and political catastrophe. Yes, he is right, Aoun is certainly capable of replacing Lahoud in that regard.

But of course, the FPM and their leader fail to see behind these ego-boosting words. Aoun hears from March 8 that he won a “World War” in the Metn. He hears that they call him a Napoleon. But does he remember that Napolean’s disastrous miscalculations, ambition, and military stupidty are the very reasons why he lost against Russia? You cannot fight winter. Yet Aoun thinks he is capable of more than just fighting the weather.

Even the United States now considers the general to be officially within the March 8 bloc and that means as a serious contender to the existence of the Seniora government. Earlier this week, the Bush administration issued a list of prominent business men that are allegedly funding members of the March 8 bloc, including Aoun and the FPM. I am therefore very glad that the Metn elections happened right after to show the world just who these supporters really were. They were not the Maronites who mainly voted for Gemayel. They were the 8,400 Tashnag supporters, 2,500 SSNP followers, 2,000 Syrian naturalized Lebanese, and the list goes on. Thankfully, however, the Maronites are not the ones being labeled by the United States. The Christian Lebanese saved themselves with these elections.

Why should eyebrows be raised? Because Aoun is no longer the Christian leader. It is almost impossible to compete with his voting record when the last elections he had back in May 2005 got him over 70 percent of the Christian vote. When Aoun left March 14 back in 2005, he took all the Christians with him. Now, the Christians are back where they belong, but Aoun is no where to be seen.

2 Comments

Filed under Amin Gemayel, Aoun, Fouad Seniora, Free Patriotic Movement, Lebanese Christians, Lebanese Presidential Elections, Lebanon, March 14, March 8, Syria, Tashnag