Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Veto irrelevant if MPs would only do their job

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:

Let MPs start exercising their constitutional right to propose laws.

As explained above, it will neatly and legally circumvent any veto right March 8 mistakenly thinks it has.

5 comments:

Lalebanessa said...

Riemer,
As mustapha so succinctly put it on BeirutSpring, the opposition does not actually need a veto because any time something happens that they don't like they'll lift their guns in our faces to get their own way.
I think what will actually take down the current opposition alliance is their loose cannon Aoun. One day Aoun and his supporters will realise that their vision of a modern Lebanon is incompatible with the ideology of hizballah. Let's hope and pray that the "enlightenment" comes sooner than later.

Blacksmith Jade said...

Good post Riemer, now all we need to do is replace Berri to ensure he doesn't lock the country's Parliamentarians out again.

Anonymous said...

I think when (HZ or M14) use their weapons against Lebanese, its bad.

Lets not fool ourselves and think it was just one sided. please. walaw.

saving grace said...

of course it was not one sided! you want shouf people to watch hezbollah bombing the mountain and stand still?! it is not their customs not to fight back! they killed more than 60 and captured 48 in addition to 13 armed vehicles (although hezbollah does not admit it). "Lets not fool ourselves" HEZBOLLAH STARTED IT "please. walaw." dear anonymous

Theo said...

So, now Lebanon became a real banana-republic. Didn't we know that all, long before?