Cabinet negotiations and arms cache explosions

The eminently relevant and deliciously ironic Elias Mutannah (known in the blogosphere as Qifa Nabki) has a comprehensive overview of the complications involved in the formation of Lebanon’s new government: ‘Consider the various matrices that Hariri is operating with. In most parliamentary democracies, the goal of the ruling party is typically to form a government with the smallest possible coalition that can gain the confidence of the legislative chamber. In Lebanon’s case, the goal is to form a government with the largest possible coalition without completely crippling the executive branch through perpetual veto-enforced gridlock. It’s not pretty, but this is the solution that everyone is committed to this time around. Add to this opening principle a variety of other distributional conventions and you have  a recipe for a very complicated process indeed. For example, the cabinet is typically supposed to be split equally between Christians and Muslims. Furthermore, Maronites, Sunnis, and Shiites are usually given the same share each. In a thirty-member cabinet, this would mean that there would have to be 15 Christians (e.g., 6 Maronites and 9 non-Maronites) and 15 Muslims (e.g., 6 Sunnis, 6 Shiites, and 3 Druzes). Before you can go about parceling out seats, however, you need to know how many each coalition is going to get. Here we run into the old veto issue. Hariri is negotiating different opposition demands, ranging from Aoun and Frangieh’s request for full proportional representation (which would amount to 45% of the cabinet or 13 ministers), to a simple veto share (11 seats), to Hizbullah and Amal’s constructive ambiguity (which is presumably open to a 10 seat share along with certain “guarantees” in the cabinet declaration.) Finally, there is the issue of foreign interests. Syria would like its allies to have a veto share and would like it even better if Hariri came to Damascus before announcing the cabinet (highly unlikely indeed). The Saudis would like to reserve as much power for M14, but there have been rumblings about a possible opening to Damascus as a means of drawing it back into the Arab fold. Given the number of square pegs awaiting insertion into round holes, where does a novice PM-designate even begin?  The formula most talked about is the so-called 15-10-5 split (for M14, M8, and the President, respectively), which has a certain elegance about it. For legislation on ordinary issues, M14 would not be able to push through its agenda without help from the President’s ministers, a fact that would seem to strengthen the President’s role as a true consensual figure, and not just a symbolic one. At the same time, the opposition would not be able to block legislation on the “issues of national importance” that require a cabinet supermajority, without the help of the president as well. His ministers would represent the crucial swing vote.’

In other news, the Israeli government gives us yet another proof of its astonishing hypocrisy – if not sheer mental confusion – in claiming that the purported explosion yesterday of ‘a ‘Hizbullah weapons cache’ in Khirbet Silim is proof that ‘iran and Syria’ are not abiding by UNSC resolution 1701. Uhm, correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t UNSC resolution 1701 (or at least the part of it that Israel selectively likes to focus on) call for the disarming of Hizbullah? And what is the explosion of a weapons cache if not the destruction of arms, i.e. a step on the road to disarmament? So shouldn’t the zionist occupation government be applauding this new tendency? Really, there’s just no pleasing these shlomos…

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