Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Is the patriarch supporting Berri?

In the everlasting search for consensus, a peculiar development has taken place: Berri is now claiming to support the patriarch who, according to Berri is supporting his position. Finally, one might think, leading figures from opposite agreeing with each other! But are they?

In today's Daily Star, the media advisor of Nabih Berri is cited: "There is a good likelihood the session on the 25th will not convene if agreement is not reached between opposing political sides," Hijazi told The Daily Star. "The speaker would then postpone the session for 15 days or a month."

He added that for the speaker, the matter of the quorum had been settled by Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir, who has come out in favor of the two-thirds formula.

It usually is tricky to speak on other people’s behalf. So let's see if Berri would be right be claiming that the patriarch would be in support of the two positions held by Berri:

  1. To not convene parliament if no agreement has been reached
  2. The claim that the patriarch is in support of the two-third quorum.

The first claim has been vehemently denied by the patriarch who insists on holding the parliament regardless of expected outcome. In his own words: "Presidential elections must take place…No one can boycott a nation"

Well, that certainly sounds clear to me. The next point regarding the two-third quorum is a bit trickier. Depending on which newspaper you read, the patriarch is quoted differently. See also Failasoof's article on this bias in Lebanese newspapers. Even Naharnet seems to be confused. The opening line of a recent article states that:

Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir stressed that a two-thirds quorum is needed to elect a new president for Lebanon

Based on this quote, the patriarch seems to be fully in line with Berri’s position. However, if you continue to read the very same article, you come across this quote:

"The Constitution is clear. The president of the republic should be elected by secret ballot and by a two-thirds quorum of PMs, and if the quorum is not secured, then a president will be elected by a half-plus-one vote," he clarified.

The constitution is clear…he clarified…u-hum. This might all be crystal clear to the patriarch, but others might be left with certain questions. Like, why bother with a two-third quorum if all you need is the half-plus-one vote? Furthermore, is the half-plus-one rule based on the total number of MPs (128) or the MPs present during the session?

What is perfectly clear, though, is that Berri cannot possibly claim the patriarch agrees with him since the last thing Berri wants is a majority vote in the house over which he presides. Too bad, for a moment you could hope that major players have reached an agreement, only to find out that things aren’t that simple in Lebanon.


JoseyWales said...

On the 2/3: Sfeir has been confused and confusing and totally unhelpful to his own cause. He can blame himself on this.

Sfeir's statement quoted above is as idiotic and confused as they come: If you (wrongly) believe the quorum is 2/3, you CANNOT have an election without it.

It's like saying the quorum for a legislative session is 50%+1, but if there are not enough present, you can go ahead anyway.

Sfeir is pathetic, ar are the lies by Murr and Berri etc.

They can't or don't want to tell the difference between votes and MPs, and between quorum and votes needed to elect.