Worried Lebanese

thought crumbs on lebanese and middle eastern politics

Berri returns! How many sequels can we take? (part 1)

Posted by worriedlebanese on 17/06/2009

Amal Poster“On prend les mêmes et on recommence”, as the French saying goes. The Lebanese press has been announcing Nabih Berri’s return since the alleged victory of the March XIV coalition (two Muslim oligarchs, the two Christian parties they salvaged as Junior partners, their clients and semi-autonomous allies).

Michael Young published a piece last week that sums up March XIV leaders’ and their supporter’s positions perfectly.

First the leaders’ positions: the editorialist will hardly mention them. But one can easily understand that the March XIV leaders have no qualms about reelecting Nabih Berri and will command their MPs to do so. The editorialist will obviously not state this that bluntly. He will simply indicate that “Berri will return” (as Michael Young puts it in the heading, or Philippe Abi Akl in the francophone daily in Orient Le Jour). This certainty is not linked to any agency. At first sight, it seems like a foregone conclusion, a question of fate. The two editorialists mentioned don’t even discuss the alternatives. Michael Young cites exterior pressures (an argument used by politicians to absolve themselves from responsibility), but not very convincingly. Why would Syria insist on Nabih Berri’s reelection? How has it expressed it? In what way will it exert pressure to achieve it? What will be the cost of accepting this pressure or refusing it? These are important questions that Michael Young simply ignores.

And now the March XIV supporter’s arguments. Michael Y0ung and Philippe Abi-Akl do not hide the fact that they favour this alliance. They are actually quite vocal about their political preferences and don’t consider that as a bias. So their editorials sum up the most most intelligent (and intelligible) arguments that camp has to offer. And they illustrate well the uncomfortable position the March XIV supporters are trapped in.

  • They castigate and have in the past heavily reviled Nabih Berri, and believe that time has come for a change of Speaker (17 years is a long enough term). This position is shared by many FPM supporters. It was the party’s official position in 2005.
  • They believe the “majority” should act as a majority.
  • They will justify their leaders’ decision even if they don’t agree with it. This behaviour is shared by many FPM and March VIII supporters. And they know that their leaders have already decided that Berri will succeed to himself.
  • They accept their leaders’ decision, but believe that this reelection should be done with a minimal number of votes (some suggest that it should be done after several “humiliating” rounds), and that it should be accompanied by conditions. The two suggestions are obviously meaningless. Practically, what difference does it make if Berri is elected by 80, 60 or 40 votes after 4 rounds? And how exactly can you impose conditions on him? How can you secure his commitment?

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I checked out Amal and Nabih Berri‘s sites. They’re quite revealing. Check them out and you’ll see what I mean.

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