Worried Lebanese

thought crumbs on lebanese and middle eastern politics

Government formation… what lesson learnt?

Posted by worriedlebanese on 11/11/2009

15849419061Analytical difficulties

An informed analysis is tributary to the access to the relevant information. The problem one encounters in studying the cabinet formation process is not the lack of public discussion on the matter, but the lack of reliable information. This is true for several reasons:

  • The discussion was mostly polemical. Oddly enough it was limited to three questions : distribution of portfolios, choice of ministers, and foreign meddling.
  • The negotiating parties had decided to keep the discussions secret.
  • Middle or lower ranking members of the concerned political formations discussed extensively matters that were supposed to be kept private (i.e. distribution of portfolios and choice of ministers).
  • Editorialists not only built their analysis on unreliable sources, polemical outbursts and unsubstantiated allegations (of intent and of foreign allegiance) but also raised expectations.

Preliminary agreements

Three of the most difficult elements in grand coalition government formation were solved from the onset of the process, and these elements are:

  • the choice of Prime minister: Saad Hariri
  • the number of parties participating in the government: Amal, Hezbollah, FPM, Marada, Tashnag (for the smaller parliamentary coalition), Lebanon First, Lebanese Forces, Kataeb and “independents”  (for the larger parliamentary coalition).
  • the general distribution of cabinet seats: with an agreement on four forumlas:
    • the two constitutional formulas of communal distribution (parity between Christian and Muslims, proportionality between the larger communal groups within each half) that translated in these terms: 6 Maronite, 6 Sunni, 6 Shiite, 3 Druze, 4 Greek-Orthodox, 3 Greek-Catholic, 2 Armenians ;
    • The general partisan formula: 12-3-5-10, that is: 12 to be distributed between Lebanon First, Lebanese Forces, Kataeb and their allies, 3 for the PSP, 5 for the President of the Republic, 10 to be distributed between Amal, Hezbollah, FPM, Marada, Tashnag.
    • Muslim communal super-Zu’ama choose the ministers belonging to their community: Saad Hariri 4 ministers (with one given to an independent ally), Nabih Berri chooses 3 ministers, Walid Jumblatt chooses 3 ministers, Hassan Nasrallah 2 ministers. There are two exceptions to the rule that were agreed on: the President picks a Shiite and a Sunni minister that is not vetoed by the communal super-Zu’ama.

Several hypothesis for the delay

With so many points already agreed upon from the onset, why did the process take so much time. Here are the possible reasons that were put forward by the analysts:

  • “Foreign intervention” (meddling of the US, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iran)
  • “Michel Aoun’s impossible conditions” and his style.
  • “The March XIV Christians’ pressure on Saad Hariri”.
  • Inexperience and bad counseling of Saad Hariri’
  • Absence of arbitrator or mediator between the two large cross-communal coalitions.

More tomorrow

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2 Responses to “Government formation… what lesson learnt?”

  1. Qifa Nabki said

    worriedlebanese

    You spend most of this post observing things that we already know, and the rest of it reporting on what “analysts” are saying.

    I want to hear what YOU think. :)

    What do YOU think the lessons learnt are? Why did the process take so much time? How can it be improved upon?

    • thanks for the visit QN.
      that was in introductory exposé (like most of my postings), but i’ll try to follow it up tomorrow by exploring each of the five hypothesis, and by adding a sixth one.

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