Now that the Doha talks have resulted in a veto-right for the Opposition and a so-called unity government, fears are that this will set an example: regardless the outcome of the next parliamentary elections, the government will default into one where losers have equal powers to the winners. So why bother voting anymore?
This is a bizarre question since people seem to have forgotten it is not the ministers that pass laws, but the MPs. What’s more, they can also propose their own laws. As such, the composition of the Chamber is what matters, not that of the Council of Ministers.
The Lebanese Constitution is quite clear on this. Take a look at Article 18, e.g.:
“The Parliament and the Council of Ministers have the right to propose laws. No law shall be promulgated until it has been adopted by the Chamber.”
In other words, there is nothing stopping the Parliament to come forward with its own law proposals. As such, March 14 can still push their agenda, simply by submitting law proposals to their fellow Chamber members.
What about approving of the laws, then? For this, we have to consider Article 34 that speaks of the required quorum:
“The Chamber is not validly constituted unless the majority of the total membership is present. Decisions are to be taken by a majority vote. Should the votes be equal, the question under consideration is deemed rejected.”
So for a law proposal to pass, all is needed is a simple majority vote by the Chamber. As it stands, March 14 holds this majority. This means it can propose and vote on its own law proposals without having to bother with March 8.
Even if the president uses his veto right, the Chamber can overrule him by simple majority, as per Article 57:
“The President of the Republic, after consultation with the Council of Ministers, has the right to request the reconsideration of a law once during the period prescribed for its promulgation. This request may not be refused. When the President exercises this right, he is not required to promulgate this law until it has been reconsidered and approved by an absolute majority of all the members legally composing the Chamber…”
“But, but…”, the reader might counter, “you forgot the veto right of the minority that was now agreed upon in Doha!!”
Nope, I did take it into consideration, it’s just that this veto right is irrelevant. Despite all the brouhaha in the press and among the Lebanese public, a close reading of the Constitution does not mention the sacred two-thirds of ministers except in Article 65 sub 5, which relates to decisions of “basic national issues”, such as changing the constitution. Such majority is not required for anything else!
So why all this talk about the two-third veto right? My guess would be that the Chamber of Deputies until now has hardly come up with a proposal of their own and just limits itself to approving the laws that the Council of Ministers presents to the Chamber. If so, this would give March 8 the option to veto out any concept law it doesn’t like to prevent it from reaching Parliament.
But there’s a simple way around it:
As explained above, it will neatly and legally circumvent any veto right March 8 mistakenly thinks it has.