Worried Lebanese

thought crumbs on lebanese and middle eastern politics

No Presidential share in government! Some reasons why Michel Suleiman shouldn’t get any!

Posted by worriedlebanese on 21/08/2009

Suleiman-haifaEver since the process for the formation of a new government started, pundits have been discussing the Presidents share; how large its going to be, and who is likely to be part of it. At first, analysts wondered if the President’s share could be neutral, given the extreme polarisation of Lebanese politics, or if it will bring together people from both sides of the spectrum. Then the magic formula appeared: 15 (for March XIV® and allies), 10 (for the Opposition®) – 5 (for the President). The political class had agreed to increase the President’s share from 3 to 5! This was presented as a measure to reinforce the presidency that was much weakened by the constitutional amendments agreed upon in Taef. Unsurprisingly, analysts were easily convinced by this unanimous decision & argument. No one seemed to question its appropriateness, its pertinence or its constitutionality. But don’t worry, things are going to change! I’m going to share with you a couple of good reasons why their shouldn’t be any “presidential share” in any cabinet!

Here are 5 good reasons why the President shouldn’t have a share in government.Suleiman_Election

Having a share neutralises his constitutional function as arbitrator. Being able to swing from one to another in a cabinet vote is not arbitration, it’s taking sides.

  1. Being part of the government weakens his authority. It’s not about numbers and positions, it’s about being on another level! He should assert his moral authority and stay above the political fray.
  2. Having ministers means that he accepts to be like all the other political players, but with one notable difference, he will be the only one who cannot count on a group of MPs.
  3. By having a share, he complicates and circumvents two rules of coalition formation : the proportionality rule and the consociational rule.
  4. By accepting to have a share, he affirms the mouhassassa and mahsoubié principle.

What the President should do.

At this point of time, he should set the rules behind the composition of the government by arbitrating between the opposing contentions, and innovating. There is no agreement on the three dimensions of coalition buildings. The political class still hasn’t defined definitive rules for distributing share and portfolios, picking ministers and setting a common program. Now these issues are quite complex, and they are never formulated in legal terms so as not to complicate even more the process. But when disagreements run so deep, an arbitrator is needed. Why go to Damascus, to Riyad or to Doha to find an arbitrator? why not simply go to Baabda.

Here are a couple of principles that the President should arbitrate on:

  • Can a candidate who lost the parliamentary elections become minister? People are thinking about Gebran Bassil, but there are others, and I’m thinking of Ahmad Asaad, for instance. I personally believe Asaad should become Minister even though he lost during the elections… This would ensure a political diversity within the Shiite representation. And then, is it fair to exclude from the government people who lost during the elections without equally excluding politicians who didn’t dare run because they were almost sure to loose?
  • Should the different Zuama stick to naming people from within their ranks or can they name people from outside their ranks? such as “independents” or “allies”.
  • Does anyone have a veto power on the nomination of ministers within each share?

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