Impressions, views, and steam-blowing by a lonesome cowboy.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Election: The 2/3 Berri/Aoun Lie

Speaker Berri/Berry: I will convene parliament on September 25 to elect a new president. (Daily Star)

Berri minion Bazzi, Hezbo’s Raad, Aoun and his minions: the election requires 2/3 of the 128 MPs to be held (a lie or legal ignorance, you choose). (Naharnet)

This transparent good-cop/bad-cop routine is what passes for brilliant maneuvering in moronic Lebanese politics. And it may well look brilliant given the continued haplessness of M14, Seniora/Sanioura and Saad Hariri. Yes, there is the occasional repartee (Joumblatt, Geagea etc) but that is nowhere near enough. The opposition* is in the driver seat and M14 keeps playing catch-up.

Speaker Berri is taking flak and pressure for paralyzing parliament. The real goal of course is to sink the presidential election (after the tribunal). And while the opposition managed to taint the legality of the current government, there is no excuse whatsoever for delegitimizing the duly elected parliament. Nabih Berri knows it too well.

So Berri comes out and says the above, which:

a) changes the subject from his appalling dereliction of duty

b) makes him look like he’s impartial and doing his job

Then 5 minutes later, if not before, Amal/Hezbo/Aoun flunkies come out to tell us that the constitution requires a 2/3 quorum to hold the presidential election. I.e. 85 MPs out of 128. Of course the “opposition” has 1/3 of the MPs and therefore could block the election by not showing up. Or so they claim.

Amal MP Bazzi:

Bazzi said the legislative will convene based on a quorum of two-thirds of MPs to elect a new head of state to replace President Emile Lahoud [….]
Amal MP Ali Hassan Khalil:

"The text [of the Constitution] is clear concerning the need for a two-thirds majority in order to convene the session [of Parliament]," Khalil added.
MP Michel Aoun is on record with the same gibberish.

IANAL** but here’s Article 49 of the constitution (in translation):

The President of the Republic shall be elected by secret ballot and by a two-thirds majority of the Chamber of Deputies. After a first ballot, an absolute majority shall be sufficient.
Clearly “2/3 majority” and “absolute majority” in sentence one and two refer to the same THING: the margin needed to ELECT. Not a margin needed to HOLD the election.

Furthermore, the original Article 49, prior to 1927 said:

The President of the Republic shall be elected by secret ballot and a two-thirds majority of the total votes of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies joined in a Parliamentary Assembly. After the first ballot, an absolute majority shall be sufficient. (Bold mine)
Hear that? 2/3 of the votes. Yes, everything was better in the 20’s and they knew how to write a constitution back then. It seems the constitution got worse with every revision (thanks Syria, Saudi and our own idiots).

First amendment to Article 49, in 1927 read:

The President of the Republic shall be elected by secret ballot and a two-thirds majority of the total votes of the Chamber of Deputies. After the first ballot, an absolute majority shall be sufficient.

Amended in 1929, the part in question stated the same. (The presidential term was changed from 3 years to 6 years.)

Call me crazy but for those who want to see, Article 49 and its history are crystal clear, even to people with no legal background. As for liars, cheats and plain idiots, I cannot vouch.

M14 needs to stop this 2/3 baloney in its tracks, right now.

Everyone should be in on this, 24/7 and until after the election, to win the PR battle. By everyone, I mean MPs, legal and constitutional experts, the constitutional council, the religious heads, the chamber of commerce etc.

Pressure and ridicule should be heaped non-stop on the naysayers and on their dubious legal experts. The presidential election is in November and again M8 is grabbing the initiative and is ahead in the PR battle.

In the meantime Seniora is releasing accounting reports to prove to Hezbo that his government is sending Dahieh more money than Hezbo says, or some such nonsense. Fouad, that's not not going to sway Nasrallah and his lunatics. Focus on the ball.

*Opposition is a misnomer. Oppositions play by the rules. M8 is an insurgency.

**IANAL: Net lingo, could not resist, for “I am not a lawyer”


  • At 4/18/07, 10:05 PM, Anonymous fubar said…

    You are right but M14 is not worried about this yet. They are worried about the tribunal and what Nas' reaction to Chapter 7 is going to be. It's going to be a long summer...

    Let Hezbollah say it all day long, every day. After weeks or months of saying it, no one will not know their position. Then, how stupid are they going to look when M14 publishes the Constitutional Articles in the paper for everyone to read and to see that Hezbollah has been lying.

  • At 4/19/07, 2:20 PM, Blogger Ms Levantine said…

    Question Josey,

    Suppose Berri calls for the parliement to convene, what will his life expectancy be?

    How about the life expectancy of the Jumblatt/Geagea duo with no inter. tribunal and M8 taking over (Saad would be playing with his toes back in Ryadh by then).

    How about Nasrallah resuming nomal life, how long before something bad happens to him?

    Given the neighborhood, and their past actions, our politicians have an incentive to keep the status quo, if only for their physical survival, even if what is left of Lebanon is slowly disintegrating.

    You might call it a case of Dead Men Talking.

  • At 4/19/07, 9:19 PM, Blogger JoseyWales said…

    All true Ms Lev,

    though it looks like you have given up (and I am not far behind you)

    But then let's stop pretending there's a country and a future and a constitution...


    -Working with Syria is no guarantee you won't get killed

    -Berri and others have the option to leave politics and the country for a while, small price to pay if you care anything about the country

    -What is Aoun's excuse? He returned after 15 years to be stupid or to sell out?

    Finally, if it wants to survive M14 has little choice other than to hit back smartly.

  • At 4/20/07, 2:15 PM, Blogger Ms Levantine said…

    You are right Josey, I feel like giving up, and judging from the number of bloggers and posts, I am not the only one.

    I was more than willing to give M14 the benefit of the doubt as the lesser of two evils, but I don't know anymore.

    Forget the bonafide criminals in M14, but take your good friend Milquetoast: he asked his royal highness the glorious king of KSA to pick the neutral cabinet minister. Supposedly that was a piece of shrewed politics. I have a huge sense of humor, but how about changing his title from Milquetoast to Moron?

    My personnal probelm is that we are not in 1975 anymore. Back then Lebanon was all we had. Today my work is outside the country and my kids have 3 citizenships. Were we to have another civil war, my daily life would not change a bit. No more running to shelters, brushing my teeth with bottled water and wondering if school would be open the next day. So it is easier to give up.

    Frankly, the only thing that gets me going is my deep disgust with all our beloved leaders. Not a postive motivation.

    Any solution to our problems start with a first step that includes 3 elements: a wall, all of our leaders and a competent firing squad.

    Enough venting for today.

  • At 4/21/07, 8:02 AM, Anonymous frencheagle said…

    First remark

    through history, the 2/3 option for the member of the parlement to be present was always the case.
    Remember how bashir gemayel or amine gemayel were elected in 1982.
    Some deputies were even sequestrated before the election to be kept and obliged to vote following some orders in case the 2/3 of the constitution wasnt reached.
    Therefore, there a problem and a dicotomy between the habits and the uses that were taken historically and the framework of the constitution.

    Moreover, that problem clearly shows that nowadays, different interpretations of the lebanese constitution might be done with different and antagonist interest and this is the main reason why we simply need to rewrite that consitution which main mechanisms dates from the 3rd french republic and most countries nowadays, such as italie, such most of the african countries gave up.
    We need a modern consitution to get modern political systems able to modernise lebanon

  • At 4/21/07, 8:10 AM, Anonymous frencheagle said…

    forgot about the second remark:

    you shouldnt look to the english version of the lebanese constitution:
    The 2 recognised and legal versions are in french for historical reasons and in arabic.
    Also the english langage is containing many imprecise terms allowing multiple interpretation. This is why for exemple there is a different interpretation for the UNSC 242 with a english version "retreat from the territories occupied"... so "de" for the israelies ou "des" for the arab countries and the french version, "retrait des territoires". This is an exemple why in many cases, the english version of the international treaties are usually doubled with a second langage

  • At 4/22/07, 11:46 AM, Blogger JoseyWales said…

    Ms Lev, I am in a place similar to yours. (Yes, and many blogs have called it quits).


    You are playing the M8 game.

    Article 49 in FRENCH:

    Le Président de la République est élu, au premier tour, au scrutin secret à la majorité des deux tiers des suffrages.

    (Source: Conseil Constitutionel)

    All versions od Article 49, 1927, 1929 and most recent say the same thing:

    "a la majorite des 2/3 des suffrages" NOT "par la majorite de 2/3". And it's the "votes/suffrages" NOT the numbers of MPs.

    Il n'y a de pire sourd....

  • At 4/22/07, 11:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Here's French Eagle's reply:

    I didnt say the contrary, i know all the versions of the lebanese constitution as i studied that subject and here i m stating a point of view based on the jurisprudence therefore i m placing myself without political interference but through the legal aspect:
    What i m saying is that there is the "jurisprudence" and the actual text

    As far i remember, all the presidential elections took place with a quorum of 2/3
    Should u also accuse bashir gemayel or amine that were elected following this quorum to be 8 of march, Sarkis, chéhab, franjieh (okay maybe), Emile Eddé etc...
    The problem is that this constitution and the way it was interpretated till now was with a quorum of 2/3.
    The second problem is that if there is a jurisprudence on that subject, we cannot easely go for another interpretation.

    On my personal point of view and if u prefer on the political side this time if i m expressing it now , i think anyway that a presidential election based on the vote of deputies elected in 2005 through an electoral law dated from 2000 and the syrian election wont credibilise the presidency of the republic.
    From 2005 and the legislative elections i was stating that point of view. Our main problem is to restart and recredibilise the public institutions which was not done by this majority nor governement. Being consequent with myself from 2005, i wont change of opinion as far i believe that the objectives are still the same, i m therefore supporting premature legislative elections before any other move through a new equal electoral law that is compactible with the first article of the lebanese constitution stating that all citizens are equal in rights and duties.

    (French Eagle)

  • At 4/22/07, 11:55 AM, Blogger JoseyWales said…

    OK FrEagle,

    So what laws or institutions should we follow to proceed?

    The whims of Nasrallah and of the General?

    Bad rules are better than no rules.

  • At 4/22/07, 1:07 PM, Anonymous frencheagle said…


    In 2004, i wrote an article published in L'orient le jour about "lahoud reelections" stating that messing with the actuals rules would destabilise the system. This is aside. The 2/3 of the votes is something embedded inside the constitution but the 2/3 quorum is a jurisprudence to recognise the election. If we are starting to mess with the rules due to some interests, we will begin to descrédilise the system and the view of its legitimacy among lebanese and this is not the moment at all mainly due to the secterian tensions that we can witness.
    To answer you, the first problem is that it is not the presidence of the republic that is the key of our political system but the parlement. As long there is a doubt about how the parlement was elected there will be a problem.
    From 2 years till now i m stating that we need a new electoral law based on the first article of the constitution and new parlementary elections. If a parlement that is not credibile for all lebanese elect a president due to its election through that 2000 electoral law, we will face a chronical discrebilisation of the presidency for 6 more years. There wont be a consensus stating "our president really represent us, even if we didnt not choose him"
    Dont tell me that from 2 years till now, this majority was not able to push to the adoption of a new electoral law. Dont tell me that till now the arbitrage mechanism that exists but are paralysed were not be able to be fixed.
    They waited too long to restart our political system to be democratic and we are going to pay a high price for it and this explains why now the 8th of march got a power back. You are really in control of something when you are able or to paralyse it, which is the case now or to destroy it. It is not anymore the majority ruling.
    By consequence, I would favor a fast adoption of a new electoral law based on the first article of the lebanese constitution and new parlementary elections to recredibilise the heart of our institutions (as i was stating from 2 years till now) and then i would elect a new president. This method would avoid 6 more years of chronical instability.
    The problem is that our majority refused to do so and of course there is a price for it. The price will be set up with new election whatever would be the results.

    by the way, lately some pools were done and not published. I saw the results and the results seems to be astonishing especially but I ll wait for some medias to publish them. In case, it wont be the case i might come back. I am wondering right now i didnt see them yet published, it seems it s really bothering somes parties and explaining why right now they refuse to go for the process i described. It is a major survey done on different issues and scénarios and one scenarios is about parlementary elections, another one is about the international tribunal, etc...

  • At 4/22/07, 2:11 PM, Blogger JoseyWales said…

    Eagle, briefly

    --So who votes on the new electoral law? Current parliament that you say is no good? Catch 22.

    --We, you and Aoun and M14 stuck with Lahoud because of bad law and horrible precedent.

    --People rely on precedent when there is no law or the law is ambiguous. Not the case here.

  • At 4/22/07, 4:01 PM, Anonymous frencheagle said…


    What i m saying is that the 2 are right, the 14 of march and the 8 of march

    We need a quorum of 2/3 of the deputies based on the jurisprudence to be able to elect, according to the constitution, on the first round by 2/3 a president and, if not, then to elect by simple majority a president in case the 2/3 of the votes were not reached.

    However we are in a situation where the different lebanese institutions were anesthesiated by the civil war and syrian occupation, so our situation is more complicated due to a third parameter:
    We need to restart the public institutions as the current constitution do not anymore reflect the actual equilibrium and the changes that occured inside the lebanese society. Here comes my problem with the actual parlement from 2005. If we get an election based on a new electoral law voted by the current parlement based on an equal representation of everyone on a matter of consensus, we will get through all our problems as everybody, opposition and majority would be obliged to accept the results of these new elections that would occur and wont be able to point any illegitimate procedures in reaching that result.
    In 2005, there were no talks about how illegitimate was the parlement for the politicians, and it was more possible to do it at that time. But still it is possible right now. If majority and opposition aggres on a new electoral law and to organise new elections, it would be again possible to act following that procedure and i believe that can be the case.

    We need institutions that reflect in an adequate manner the real equilibriums of the lebanese society to credibilise all the institutions, presidency, parlement and cabinet, through elections with a majority and an opposition reflected and accepted by everyone.
    I dont care in normal situation if we have a majority ruling and an opposition critising.

    However we are today at a time we need for a short period of time all the tendencies reflected to make reforms accepted by all and then to get a majority and an opposition. It is making 2 years i m waiting for that to occur. our current crisis was predictable as we did not implement such policy as the key to do so is through a new electoral law according to the first article of the lebanese constitution.
    if we are going to keep a point an opposition or a majority can argue on the legitimacy of one or another player, we will still be plunging lebanon into the crisis we are going through. If a new presidential election take place now, there is no guarrantee that one part of the lebanese population accept the result and would lead us to tensions leading to the worst case.

    Our politicians act on a short vision without a global vision of their acts. A country cannot be governed that way. We need a project of society, we need an acceptance of everyone to obey to some rules or to feel that its voice is not marginalised.
    We are paying now this mistake with that political crisis.

    Now how should be designed the electoral law is another question.
    I would favor an electoral law on a uninominal circonscription as i believe that this system is the best democratic precedure to get a real representative parlement which is the key of all our institutions, and therefore if we go back to the law preexisting before 1958, we will get ride of the confessionalism factor in the elections in favor of local leadership and on local side, circonscription are more homogenous. But that law is against the interest of some feodals chiefs controling their communities and against the majors parties as new leaders on a local scene might appear on that local scene in such case against joumblatt for exemple in the chouf or against the Hezbollah, the future etc...

    to go deeper on a personal point of view, i believe our constitution is our main weakness. I dont know any country that used to have the same model or a similar model then the third french republic(add to it the secteran add-on and the geopolitical environment with syria and israël which is our main threat of destabilisation) that did not strenghed the executive part. Italie did it due to its instability , most of the african countries ... we saw what happened with a sort of civil war in ivory coast etc... The next step after religitimising our institution would be to introduce constitutional reforms to strengh the executif, i dont care if it would be the president or the prime but i need stability for my own safety.

    we need deep reforms and we are just scratching what should be done. We need to rebuild our institutions and right now we are just painting some walls instead of strenghtening the global structure.
    It s amazing that no one talks about societal project, how lebanon should be looking like in the future, how to reflect the changes occured, how to answer to the actuals and futurs geopoliticals threats etc...to focus on minors details that are kindergardens talks.

  • At 4/23/07, 6:01 PM, Blogger JoseyWales said…


    Please don't try to overwhelm me with long diatribes. At least try to answer my questions if we are going to have a conversation.

    --What precedent are you talking about? (when again the law is clear, and we have no rulings on such things)

    --There needs to be a new president or no president, after November, period.

    An NO, Lahoud-the-shit's departure should not be conditioned on ANYTHING, let alone pre-conditions on a never-coming agreement and bullying. You are talking pie-in-the-sky ideal stuff that has not and won't work (dialogue table).

  • At 4/24/07, 5:21 AM, Anonymous frencheagle said…


    do u know the lebanese history and how from 1926 (Charles Debbas, you name them, they were all elected through with that quorum and no need to remind that how the elections were done in 1982 with 3 deputies sequestrated to reach that quorum, i think it was boutros harb but i m not sure, Saadé and someone else) were the presidential elections organised?
    There were always a quorum of 2/3 as unwritten law.
    Otherwise, 3 deputies sitting inside a café place de l'étoile might elect a new president by themselves.
    Imagine 3 deputies of the 8 of march sitting in café de l'étoile, electing a new président. End of story in case no quorum exists.
    If we change the rules to satisfy one side or another, the people doing it are not better then those that pushed toward the election of ... Lahoud. We need to respect all the procedures to elect a new president, maybe not representing everybody but accepted by everyone.

    This is a technical talk.

    Add to it the current situation where we need to create an acceptance by all lebanese of the institutions that were not done for 2 years by that majority. All the lebanese institutions, parlement, counsil and presidency, Doesnt matter if we are pro or against, at least all lebanese should recognise the legality of theses institutions to begin with, and it is not the case.
    As the root of the system is parlement, it begins by giving back a legality of the parlement through new election based on a new electoral law.

    2 years from 2005 and nothing was done toward that goal.
    How can we still trust politicians and especially those in power as long as they did not work toward theses goals.

  • At 4/24/07, 5:28 AM, Blogger Jay said…


    You repeatedly mentioned that a new election law needs to be based on the first article of the constitution. But Article 1 talks about Lebanon's sovereignty and territorial bounds and has nothing to do with elections. Perhaps you were thinking of some other article?

  • At 4/24/07, 7:43 AM, Blogger JoseyWales said…


    I don't think you understand what precedent means. If it so happened that all previous elections were held with 2/3 of the MPs, it does not follow that you cannot have an election without 2/3 present.

    It's like saying we never had an election on a Tuesday, therefore we can never have one on a Tuesday.

    I still don't understand your catch-22 reasoning. It would be nice to have agreement, we don't.

    If you trash all existing institutions, who makes the decisions to build the "new" institutions?

    Isn't it better to work through current law and institutions? We tried civil war, we tried dialogue of poles, and we tried discussion via outsiders.

    I'll add that Aoun and Hezbo ran under the 2000-law and implicitly accepted it (not that it matters since it's the law, like it or not).

  • At 4/24/07, 9:22 AM, Anonymous frencheagle said…

    "Liban est une république démocratique, parlementaire, fondée sur le respect des libertés publiques et en premier lieu la liberté d’opinion et de conscience, sur la justice sociale et l’égalité dans les droits et obligations entre tous les citoyens sans distinction ni préférence. "
    First article, the electoral law on which the election were based in 2005 and 2000 contradict this principle of equality in rights and obligations following you were from mount lebanon or not. This is a direct consequence, the parlement considering this article is non legitime. The governement is non legitime as he was appointed through that parlement. The président that was relégitimased by the majority as they created under his presidency is non legitime since 2004.
    We can go like that:
    Due to the elections, the christians consider the parlement not being legitimate. mount lebanon was cut in caza whereas the other regions were voting on a mohafaza level.
    The shia consider the governement non legitimate
    The lebanese think that the presidency is non legitime.
    As the center is the parlement which elect the president and through consultation brings governement, we should start by a new parlement.

    On another side, there is a difference now if i m stating that point from 2005 till now and the fact that now the opposition says the same.
    However the matter is a matter of power responsability.
    Those that were governing at that time committed the mistake but those governing now are not correcting it. This should have been done since 2005 and if it was done at that time most of the problems and troubles that were then raised wouldnt been existing.
    Now they lost this opportunity and of course there s a price for loosing this opportunity.

    And i guess that here we can reach a consensus on a new electoral law and to hold new elections no matter what happen. The opposition is clearly saying, the majority refuses. but the majority should accept one important fact. Dunno if you know sun tzu or the art of war: "If u can destroy or paralyse your opponments, you won"
    the opposition won from 4 months till now. The parlement is blocked, the governement do not govern. This is reality. the country is paralysed as most the crucial points lebanon was facing were mismanaged by thoses that rule, the majority.
    constitutionnaly we do not have anymore arbitrage counsil, therefore no one can say if they are right or wrong. by consequence, we should act following rules, here the jurisprudence.

    However as i said, the majority refuses such scenario as it is not sure they would win.
    About Aoun's case for exemple, according to some surveys done just early this month i saw and not published in the medias, 60% of the christians still support him. His popularity erosion was estimated to be just by 10%. but i guess only real elections might say if that survey is right or wrong.

    The matter here is to stop a crisis that might become chronic more then everything else. I am having a problem to prolonge for 6 more years the trouble lebanon is facing when something else , something better might be done. On that point, a consensus might be done. Let s go for it.
    The matter is to have institutions not representing all but accepted by all.

  • At 4/24/07, 5:46 PM, Blogger JoseyWales said…


    You keep missing my point. If you and the opposition want a constitutional convention, say so.

    M8 cannot keep twisting the law (Aoun "legal to block roads", Hezbo "legal to shut down businesses forever", and/or keep distorting the constitution.

    And when caught you, and they, say the law is unfair, not what I mean, etc.

    Anyway, this chat has gone on long enough. No more comments from me. Readers have enough to make up their own minds.

  • At 4/24/07, 10:05 PM, Blogger Jay said…


    You're thinking of the preamble of the constitution, not the first article. I minor mistake but a mistake nevertheless.

    As for the reasoning that the parliament is illegitimate because the election law was unfair, you have to remember that fairness of a law is always relative. There's no such thing as an absolutely fair law, the best you can hope for is a slightly better law. Nobody for example is ready to abolish confessional quotas from the election law as per Article 95. The important thing is that in 2005, most parties (notably Hezbollah and Amal, the core parties of the current opposition) agreed to have the election under the 2000 law. That makes the current parliament legitimate, warts and all.

    It's true that the ruling coalition (of which HA/Amal were part of) has utterly failed in its duties among which is to bring about a more fair election law. That's how democracy ought to work anyway, you vote someone in power and if they fail your expectations, you vote for someone else the next time. But it's incorrect to say that the current parliament has somehow become illegitimate because the losers of the last elections cry foul. That would set up a bad precedent, and who's to say that after the next elections whoever loses won't repeat the same drama?

  • At 4/25/07, 3:01 PM, Anonymous frencheagle said…


    No u still do not understand that on this issue a compromise is possible based on the accepted proposition of fouad boutros.
    The compromise is here, but do to the political agenda, the majority push toward the diversion of the international tribunal that will be only (best case) set up in about 2 to 3 years (see the rawda or ex yougoslavia case)

    Jay , it is not the préambule but the first article, dont check the english version, the english version is not an official version contrary to the french and the arabic version.
    I put and highlighted why the parlement, elected through an unfair electoral law is illegitimate and i explained that as long we do not have arbitrage counsil, nothing will be done except if we start by legitimating what is making the law.
    All the problem stands inside the parlement from 1958, from the confessionalism phenomena erruption , passing by the civil war to the unfair representation.
    A fair representation of all based on non confessionalist laws is the cure of lebanon's problem. My interest is to treat the cause and not the symptom. We paid enough for the last 50 years this mistake of playing with the electoral law.

    A fair election legitimating all the institutions from the parlement to the presidency would be this cure. We can no longer scratch the problem, the 8 or 14 march is just a minor problem, we need to set up new bases.

  • At 4/25/07, 3:04 PM, Anonymous frencheagle said…

    One mea culpa, long time i ve been reading the constitution

    yes it s the preambule

    i just checked


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