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

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Fun With Election Day

Tomorrow’s attempt to gather the MPs and get a president elected for Lebanon will be attempt number five (or six?). There’s little, if any, smell of agreement or “consensus” in the air.

Also any iffy agreement on General Michel Suleiman/Sleiman will require an amendment to the constitution. Unfortunately, with the Syrian goons gone, gone are also the good old days of amending the constitution in about fifteen minutes and by a mere show of hands.

Reading what passes for news: Presidential Election Postponed till December 7

"There will probably be no election tomorrow," MP Butros Harb, a leading Christian figure of the ruling majority, told AFP.

MP Ali Hassan Khalil also said a postponement of the Friday voting session is "probable."

The mind boggles. [The above statements were made hours before the postponement.] These two are MPs, slated to vote, one hopes before kingdom come, on a new prez. They both are in Beirut, and one of them is a leading candidate.

How is it that yours truly, a mere reader of news, a world away from the action and totally uninvolved in the electoral process, knows more than these MPs do? Fellows go home, there will be NO election tomorrow Friday Nov 30, I GUARANTEE it. (Damn I am good, as I write this, E-Day postponed to December 7, and the Naharnet story was edited)

Another MP, Aoun, no, not super-crazy Michel Aoun, but Selim Aoun who belongs to the wacko’s bloc in parliament:

Aoun said that, "in any case, reaching an agreement over the army commander does not resolve the crisis because there are still many lingering issues, including the formation of the next government, the amendment of the electoral law and the arms of Hizbullah," the anti-Israeli group spearheading the opposition.

Translation: when you cannot solve a very complicated problem, don’t focus on it alone. Try to solve it simultaneously and contemporaneously with ten other equally intractable problems. It’s the Lebanese way.

Now if you want to talk constitutional amendment you got to go to the oracle of Ain el Tineh. Here is Speaker of the House Nabih Berri, open to the idea of amendment:

Berri explained that there were four ways to amend the constitution.
Thanks Nabih, I know. You can’t find the one way to FOLLOW the constitution but you have FOUR ways to change it. My favorite is number three, the one where you drop the constitution down the toilet, flush, and then wait to see what comes out on the other side.

More seriously, none of these ways may be CONSTITUTIONAL. One involves the prez. With no prez, that’s out. One involves the government which Berri and friends deem ILLEGAL. ALL ways involve the parliament. However the constitution says: with no prez, parliament can do NOTHING before proceeding to the election. We’ll see.

And in a repeat of the great canard of 2007 Berri added:

"…I'm staying in the waiting room until they (feuding camps) come to an agreement;

See, the horse’s arse still likes to believe that he is a neutral arbiter, having espoused 220% of the agenda of the Hezbo/Aoun side.

In other earth shattering news, Brother-Emir-Ambassador Abdul Aziz Khoja

If consensus was [sic] reached on Gen. Suleiman, the [Saudi] kingdom would support this issue.
If a “consensus” were reached to make a donkey prez of Lebanon, who could argue with that? Surely not a Saudi. (And trust me it’s happened before, not the consensus part, the donkey part).

Stay tuned for further developments regarding Groundhog Day, err I mean Election Day 2007 (2008?)

General Michel Suleiman: A Repost

With rumors and talk that some in M14 are now amenable to a constitutional amendment and to a Suleiman presidency, here's a reprint of my August 15, 2007 post on Michel Suleiman (or Sleiman, scroll down on page).

The new twist now is: how can you even get a constitutional change through the Chamber when the law says the Chamber can't do ANYTHING before it elects a president?"

Here's the old article:

Prez Michel Suleiman: And So It Begins

Deus ex machina.

After years of crisis and tension: the embassies do some voodoo, the Maronite Patriarch meets Army Chief General Suleiman, Suleiman makes a “bold” statement. Voila.

While poor Gen. Paul Fares (?) and hapless personality-challenged MPs Robert Ghanem and Boutros Harb etc are dusting up their resumes to run for president of Lebanon, the choice has been made for us and them, or so it seems.

The powers-that-be have decided General Michel Suleiman/Sleiman will be the next president of Lebanon. OK Lebanese, the goose is cooked. The Maronite Patriarch seems to have made another huge blunder but who’s counting. Most Lebanese will grumble while the rest will say those dangerous words: “this time, it’s different” (from Lahoud and Aoun).

General Suleiman the man who, weeks ago, scared us by saying he would resign his post in case of vacancy at the head of the state, now says he was misquoted and that of course he would see the nation through the storm.

This blogger is not necessarily anti-Suleiman though Suleiman’s Syrian-sponsored appointment as army chief years ago is a huge question mark, as is the fact that his sister lives in Damascus. I’ll try to return to the man when we know more. For now, the process, the need to change the constitution, the Aoun/Lahoud precedents all add to mounting concerns.

From the Daily Star:

Army Commander General Michel Suleiman has indicated he would accept to head a transitional government in the event MPs are unable to choose the next president before the end of President Emile Lahoud's term in office in November, provided all sides accept his nomination.


"Is it reasonable for me to abandon this ship while it is being lashed by high waves from all sides?" Suleiman asked, adding: "At any rate I am a public employee and I am subject to the Constitution..."

So far so good, that’s much better than his recent threat to bail out in case of a constitutional crisis.

What’s “less good” is when he says:

…he would remain at the head of the armed forces until a new president is elected and a new government is formed and he is satisfied with the security situation in the country.

No, when a new president is elected and a new government formed, they can fire you, General Suleiman, whenever they want.

What is far worse is that the apparent originator of the “idea” is ex-MP and ex-Minister Albert Mansour who, when the Syrians were under pressure to leave Lebanon in 2005, said: we would rather lose with Syria than win with Israel and the US.

So today Albert Mansour says:

"Such a [transitional and Maronite led] government would be in keeping with established practice, which is for a president to hand over power to a Maronite prime minister, it happened twice before,**"

What hypocrite Mansour forgets to tell you is that he fought the legal government of Aoun in the 1980’s as defense minister in the rival Hoss government. He was the defense minister when Syrian soldiers deposed Aoun.

And, since in Lebanon everyone is free to read one’s fantasies in the constitution:

Mansour said being appointed prime minister of a transitional government would allow Suleiman to bypass constitutional requirements that prevent grade-one civil servants like Suleiman from being elected to the presidency while still in their post or within two years of their resignation.

The law says that the army chief has to have been out of his job for TWO years before he can be elected president. Making him PM for a few days does not change anything, unless Mansour has in mind TWO years-plus of PM Suleiman. The Sunni community will be elated to hear that.

Furthermore you have to wonder why is Mansour talking about that? Why not amend the law and elect Suleiman now? Why can’t we have an election within the legal time frame (prior to November 13, 2007)? Is there a reason the MPs cannot meet and do their duty?

The answer is: yes. It seems that 1/3 or more MPs are unwilling to do their job. But in Lebanon, no one wants to talk about that. They don’t want to do their job? We'll just break the country some more, and destroy the (bad) constitution a little further. Bur never ever ask why our MPs, supposed guardians of the nation, are the worst possible law-breakers and duty-shirkers.

Further in the article:

Suleiman hoped political leaders in the country would go back to applying the "spirit and text" of the Taef/Taif Accord…

OK, General Suleiman, I hope you are a man of your word and I am keeping my fingers crossed. The “spirit and text” of Taef say you cannot be president in 2007.


** Fuad Chehab and Michel Aoun in the 50’s and 80’s.respectively.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Saniora: Straitjacket Time

From the The Daily Star, National Dependence Day 2007, our very own PM:

Siniora assures Lebanese security under control

Premier Fouad Siniora [Sanioura] said Wednesday in a speech to mark Lebanon's Independence Day that "the Lebanese can [be assured] that their national and daily security is being safeguarded, and their institutions are functioning well."

With a deadlocked presidential election and hours to go, with parliament shut down for over a year, and with empty benches on the supreme court, and with people worried sick about their future, our "institutions are functioning well"?

Is there a word for this manure other than: "$*^!$% STRAITJACKET?"

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Fawzi Salloukh Party Animal

With 3 days to Armageddon (the prez election), foreign envoys and embassies and the UN and the Arab League are all very busy trying to solve Lebanon’s problems.

The top Lebanese official supposed to deal with all these people, in the name of the country and in the name of the government, Lebanon’s very own near-Minister of Foreign Affairs is also extremely busy. Fawzi Salloukh's busy schedule is even more impressive when you recall that he actually resigned, with five others, many months ago, thereby creating the crisis miring the country.

However, if you work in the government of Milquetoast Seniora/Sanioura, it’s even better than working under the Swedish welfare state. You can continue to collect your salary. And if you feel like it, you can show up at the office every couple of months to reverse government decisions and to appoint some of your friends to cushy do-nothing government jobs.

And best of all: PARTAY! Yay! Cake and eye-candy all around, and all in the name of the government you left and trashed months ago:

Thanks to the Daily Star photographer (Fawzi is usually in the first picture of each page):

Here’s Fawzi celebrating the Belgian king, another country threatened with splitting up but at least they have a king.

Fawzi at the Spanish embassy for national day. There national day means something. Fawzi is looking forward to our National Day November 22, in 2 days and 2 days before Traitor-in-chief Lahoud is gone for a smarter alternative, even if that alternative is to be an empty chair with four wooden legs.

Another "National Day" for Fawzi, South Korea this time. Maybe we could learn from their experience of splitting up.

Speaking of splits, here's Fawzi at the Czech Embassy, they used to be with Slovakia. Both are much happier now. I wonder which Lebanon will retain the November 22 national day.

Now here's Fawzi doing the Turkish's 84th birthday. Lebanon won't make it to that age thanks to people like Fawzi. And if Fawzi is anything like me, he's ruing the day the Ottomans packed their bags and left.

Chile: Oooops, no Salloukh there. Maybe he was sick that day, or at another embassy, or maybe the memory of a country successfully ridding itself of dictatorship was just too much for poor Fawzi.

Nigerian Independence. Country is a hell hole and Fawzi is in his usual spot, next to the cake.

Brazil, another basket case. Yep, Fawzi is there (first on the left in the first pic, though not named).

I am sure you can find Fawzi and Waldo at many more of these genuine fun events.

One last thing, Fawzi was not there for Germany's National Unity Day. That's a country that was divided and years later came back together. A tad too early for that. Good call there Fawzi, it's going to be a while.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Sfeir's List: Dead on Arrival

Lebanon needs a new president by November 24, 10 days from now. The country is torn apart by an unprecedented constitutional crisis. The constitution stipulates that, without a president-elect with 10 days to go, parliament meets immediately and elects.

Who cares? We are 8 days from the last of Incompetent-Traitor-in-Chief Emile Lahoud and Speaker Berri has called for a Nov 21 election. And no one is even protesting the dangerous closeness of that date to a potential power vacuum.

After months of abusing/misinterpreting the constitution, of exhausting the Lebanese people with empty moves and rhetoric, the end is finally near. The solution? Peggy Sue Sfeir, prodded by class hunk Kouchner, is going to pass a note to Mary Lou Berri and to Mimsy Hariri during gym.

The note will have the names of all the cool dudes for president. Kouchner wanted only one name in order to bring the game to an end. But Peggy Sue Sfeir, that tease, wants 5 or 6 or even 9.

The idea is that then Mary Lou and Mimsy will pick the hunkiest 2 on the list and that the high school will elect one of them on November 21.

I don’t understand the point of the whole exercise. I mean Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir has said all along: just elect someone, anyone. Now they all want Sfeir’s imprimatur on the choice. Kouchner told Sfeir that Berri would not call parliament if Sfeir did not produce names. So Sfeir, who according to reports does not want to pick the one guy, will give several names. Duh!

We all know that Aoun and Harb and Nassib Lahoud will be on the list, plus another few a la Demianos Qattar, Joseph Torbey etc…

It’s obvious that when Hariri and Berri get the list Harb, Nassib Lahoud and Aoun will be thrown out even before the coffee guy shows up. The other names are all acceptable to Sfeir. So what’s the point? That everyone can breathe that, whomever the president is, Sfeir approves, as do Berri and Hariri. They tortured the country for over 6 months for this?

OK, the Sfeir approval means some Christian cover. Hariri provides Sunni cover, but does Berri provide anything? Syrian cover? If he had Syrian cover we would not be here and he surely cannot provide Shia/Shiite cover without Hezbollah. I am not sure what is being solved by this charade.

Reading quickly in An-Nahar, I saw a glimmer of good news. The headline said Sfeir would insist on secrecy. Silly me, I thought he was referring to the secrecy of the ballot (another constitutional rule always trashed). That would have provided some pressure to uphold a very useful part of the law. But NOOOOO, I was quickly disappointed. Peggy Sue Sfeir wants the LIST of effing candidates to remain secret. Why? Another mystery. Hell, give or take a name, all of Lebanon already knows that stupid list.

With 8 days to Armageddon these people are still worried about the silliest of stuff. They are all hopeless. Go ahead your Eminence, keep the list secret, and the election date secret, and the name of the new president secret.

Finally, as I ready to post and less than 24 hours after the lousy new non-idea was floated, it would appear that it’s already dead.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Constitution: Do It to Me One More Time

"Parliament speaker Nabih Berri has decided to postpone the session scheduled for next Monday to Wednesday November 21 at 10:30 am," a house statement said.

Berri trashes the constitution yet again. PM Seniora/Saniora has nothing to say. And Batrack Sfeir, who has uttered the words “lawful” and “constitutional” over a zillion time this past year, is going merrily along.

The constitution, article 73, clearly says if TEN days before the presidential term expires (Nov 24), the Chamber (MPs) has not convened to elect, the Chamber AUTOMATICALLY meets to proceed with the election. There is no need for the Chamber to be summoned by anyone, let alone the stupid piece of dog feces who presides over parliament.

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. (Bold mine).

November 14 IS ten days before the current (extended and unconstitutional) presidential term expires. Berri has no authority whatsoever to convene anything anymore.

Maybe the hair-splitters will argue, well Berri “summoned” but “they” did not come (including damned Berri). So, article 73 does not apply anymore. I wonder how many articles are still valid under the wonderful Saudi-Syrian Taef document?

Ironically, if you try to go to the web site of the now-defunct Constitutional Council, you get “This site is temporarily disabled”. Temporarily? I think not. The gods have spoken.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Prez Election: Tidbits and Names

Item: If you’re wondering what Hariri-Aoun talked about in the midst of the gravest time in the history of the country, among other things:

Aoun and Hariri had agreed to break down the current list of presidential candidates into four groupings.

-One group includes the "official" candidates from both camps;

-the second includes candidates accepted separately by the opposition and the majority but who could be "vetoed" by the senior leaders if not agreed on

-the third includes neutral candidates without official backing from either side

-and the fourth includes two names: General Michel Suleiman, commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces, and Banque du Liban Governor Riad Salameh.
So at least they agreed on the categories/boxes. Did they agree on who falls in what box? Or is that for after the crucial deadline of November 24?

Item: Patriarch Sfeir who had the brilliant idea of keeping Emile Lahoud in power in 2005, lest the prestige of that now crappy office be diminished, is at it again. Following his “2/3 quorum” blunder that undercut the best credible M14 threat, Sfeir now wants a candidate equidistant from M14 and M8.

Calibrating one’s position is everything. The election would be over today and Aoun would be president had he positioned himself 80% with Hezbollah, instead of the current insane 120%.

Similarly, Sfeir and Bkirki/Bkerke have blown their positioning by picking the middle here. For one, the middle is not consistent with what THEY want for Lebanon. For two, it further emboldens Aoun and Hezbo in their obstructionism. For three, they do not understand that for Hezbo/Syria there is NO frigging middle.

Parenthesis: Where the hell are the Orthodox and the Greek-Catholic religious heads? Their co-religionists often like to say “the Maronites screwed it up”. What the hell is their position? I mean besides the universal, but meaningless, consensus-lawful-deadline-peace-love-get-a-conscience blarney.

Finally someone, Carlos Edde’s National Bloc, criticized Bkirki’s recent statements for lack of courage (L’Orient-Le Jour Nov 9, link unavailable). Bkirki quickly responded with blah blah grave crisis and blah blah Sfeir’s wisdom (L’Orient-Le Jour Nov 10, link good one day).

Item: With a few days to go into the most momentous election in Lebanon’s history the politicians would have you believe that no names were ever been discussed. Given the dimness of the bulbs in question, that could well be true. However, for those who want names, other than the disqualified Aoun/NLahoud/Harb, here you go:

According to press reports the names tossed around: Amb. Simon Karam, ex-Minister Dimianos Qattar (Demianos/Damianos Kattar), MP Farid el-Khazen, Lawyer Shakib Kortbawi, and (hat-tip other tony) Maronite League head Joseph Torbay (Daily Star article, archived).

And now, little boys and girls, obviously those five are neither in box 1 nor in box 4 above. Can you fit them in the remaining two boxes?