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.
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.