Saturday, June 13, 2009

Making the case against Nabih Berri

Now that the parliamentary elections in Lebanon are over and the results have created a majority and a minority, the first order of business for the new parliament when it convenes is to elect a speaker.

Article 44 of the Lebanese Constitution stipulates the conditions of electing a Chamber of Deputies Speaker.

Each time a new Chamber is elected, the Chamber meets under the presidency of the oldest member and the secretariat or the two youngest. It will then elect separately, by a secret ballot and by an absolute majority of the votes cast, the President and the Vice President of the Chamber to hold office for the length or the Chamber's term. At the third ballot, a relative majority is sufficient. Should the votes be equal, the oldest candidate is considered elected.

The oldest member of the newly elected parliament is Abdel Latif El-Zein, elected for the region of Nabatieh, is a Shia Muslim and member of the March 8th coalition. The two youngest members are Nadim Gemayel, a Maronite, and Nayle Tueni, a Greek Orthodox, both members of the March 14th coalition and both elected in Beirut I district (Ashrafieh, Rmeil, Saife). Basically their roles are mostly ceremonial, they go around collecting secret ballots in a box and then count them.

To be elected Speaker, you must be an MP and a Shia Muslim and you must receive 2/3 or the votes of the members present. If a single candidate fails to achieve that majority of votes in the first two rounds of elections, then in the third round a simple majority suffices (1/2 the votes + 1). If two candidates get the same amount of votes then the oldest is automatically considered elected.

As things stand today, MP Nabih Berri and current Speaker is the major candidate for the new Speaker position. MP Okab Sakr, elected for the district of Zahle, has indicated that he is interested in the post of Speaker, it remains to be seen however if his interest is sincere or has any chance of materializing.

Nabih Berri has in his column at the very least the support of the following parliamentary blocs:

Amal movement bloc, 11 members
Hezbollah bloc, 13 members
Syrian Social Nationalist Party bloc, 2 members
Baath Party bloc, 2 members
Progressive Socialist Party bloc, 10 members
Michel El Murr, 1 member
And possibly anywhere between 5-10 members of independents and un-affiliated

This brings his total to 46-51 votes that he has for sure.

I personally don't think Lebanese Forces or Phalange MPs will vote for him. That's 5 MPs each.
Change and Reform bloc (Free Patriotic Movement, Marada, Tashnag and Lebanese Democratic Party) which is around 27 MPs will most likely not vote for him either. Tashnag MPs might, I'm not so sure what their position is at the moment, but I'll keep them in the NO column for now.

If this drags on into a third voting round (where only 1/2 +1 votes is needed) then Berri will win this thing easily, but if he is to win from the first two rounds of voting, he will need the support of other members of parliament or other blocs. We are left with the Future movement possibly tipping the balance here, either in his favor or against him. Although they (and by they I mean Saad El Hariri) have not come out with a decision on this, there are some rumblings going on within the Future movement against the nomination or election of Berri. Most notable of these rumblings is Ahmad Fatfat, who still has a not-so-completely-healed-wound still festering from way back when one of Berri's TV anchor ladies ever so elegantly asked when was Fatfat going to be assassinated, not knowing that her mic was hot (all this in the wake of the Eido assassination).
The support of Saad, with his 30 MPs, plus other groups within March 14th, will easily put Berri over the 86 votes he needs to win this thing. This is assuming that ALL will vote for Berri.

Unless he treads VERY carefully, he might not get the required 86 votes. Change and Reform, LF, and Phalange will make up 37 votes. Assuming all members of parliament attend the session, then 128-37 = 91.

Marwan Hamade from Jumblat's bloc has signaled he is unhappy with Berri. A few members of the Future bloc, who represent Beirut or the Sunni's might have a bone to pick with Amal invading Beirut and such.
Hamade, Fatfat, and a few grumblers could easily add up to 7 thus bringing the number of MPs voting NO or voting for another candidate to 44 or so. 128-44 = 84, less than two thirds required in the first couple rounds. This can easily torpedo his election.

One thing to really watch here is Aoun's response or decision. He knows that his 27 NO votes will not torpedo Berri's nomination, so will he actually pick that bone or not? Especially so that he butted heads with Berri in Jezzine and ended up humiliating him. In addition, he has always avoided answering whether he supported Berri for the post or not when asked by reporters. Also to consider here is the recent Ibrahim Kanaan thing on Berri's TV, Aoun might have a few things to say about that.

I personally am against a Berri re-election. For one, he has been speaker since 1992, I mean GOD, what kind of democracy is that?! Add to that the fact that he is an ex-militia leader, he is still the leader of the same group, but they are not a militia anymore. Now I understand that a lot of politicians in Lebanon have blood on their hands, but you gotta start somewhere, right? Not to mention that his Amal party took to the streets during the invasion of Beirut and contributed to the mini-war leading up to the Doha agreement. Also, his Amal party contributed to the Tent Sit-in in Central Beirut that crippled the downtown economy severely. Also, he was responsible for closing the doors of parliament for over a year to prevent the majority from voting an anti-Syrian to the presidency and to torpedo the International Court investigating the Hariri murder. And as far as I'm concerned, he just screams corruption and cronyism. Majlis el Jannoub anyone??

And on a not so serious note, I think our fashionista LZ, might have a few things to say about his sense of fashion!



  1. Definitely agreeing with you. Berri is a no-no. But at the same time, it's a bigger NO for that thing called Okab Sakr.

    The thing in Lebanon is that our choices are pretty much limited and we're somehow sucked into this position where we're almost forced to take sides. And having been here for almost 9 months, I found myself unthinkingly subscribing to this dichotomy. In reality, I don't really believe in either. I didn't vote.

  2. Politicians made a lot of noise against choosing Berri last time around, yet he was chosen. I don't see things being different this time around. The more things change, the more they stay the same, and Lebanon is no different.