Michel Sleiman

Eleven Months of Vacuum

Lebanese children hold placards and a giant Yemeni flag during a demonstration organized by Hezbollah, in front the United Nations headquarters in Beirut, Lebanon, Sunday, April 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

Lebanese children hold placards and a giant Yemeni flag during a demonstration organized by Hezbollah, in front the United Nations headquarters in Beirut, Lebanon, Sunday, April 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

Ten years ago, the Syrian army was withdrawing from Lebanon. In April 2005, “Syria was out”. But the truth is, Syria was never out. Syria was everywhere. Syria is everywhere.  For a brief moment, it seemed as if the politics of Syria and Lebanon would be at last separated from one another. But we were wrong. In the seven years that followed, the political coalitions in Lebanon were built on nothing but their stance regarding Syria, and for the 3 years after that, Lebanese politics became about the Syrian Civil War. The government will be formed when things in Syria settle down, they said. The president will be elected when things in Syria settle down, they said. Even the parliamentary elections would be held when things in Syria settle down, they said. And that last thing, it was said twice. Lebanese politics became a part of the Syrian Civil War. The Syrian Civil War became part of Lebanese politics.

But then came April 2015. The rival coalitions were not arguing about Syria anymore. At least not as much as they had argued during the past half century.

Congratulations, Lebanon. You have finally been promoted. Instead of arguing about Syria, Lebanese parties are now arguing about Yemen. You know, because we have a proper budget, no public debt, a president, a functioning cabinet, an elected parliament, no threats on our southern and northern borders, and most importantly, a successful democratic sovereign free republic. A republic so successful that its parties and elected representatives have spare time to discuss the politics of a country whose capital lies 2200 Km south of Beirut.

Anyway, enough nagging, and let’s look at the political events of the eleventh month of presidential vacancy.

Yemen, Yemen, Yemen. Did I forget to mention Yemen?

First, Hariri supports the “Saudi intervention” in Yemen. Then, Hezbollah condemns the “Saudi aggression” in Yemen. Then, the Future Movement supports the “Saudi intervention” in Yemen. Then, Nasrallah criticizes Saudi Arabia. Then, the Future Movement criticizes Hezbollah. Then, Hezbollah criticizes the Future Movement. Then, the Future Movement criticizes Hezbollah. Then, Nasrallah criticizes Saudi Arabia. Then, Hariri criticizes Nasrallah. Then, Hezbollah criticizes the Future Movement. Then, the Future Movement criticizes Hezbollah. Then, Hezbollah criticizes the Future Movement. Then, the Future Movement criticizes Hezbollah.

That, dear reader, was a short summary of the three productive weeks we had between the 27th of March and the 17th of April.

Also, it seems that the FM-Hezbollah dialogue is “still safe and sound” despite the war of words. No offense here, but isn’t a war of words the exact opposite of a dialogue? Or do we have to be in a state of war to declare the dialogue a dead-end?

Oh, and by the way, in case I wasn’t too clear, Sanaa is 2200 Km far from Beirut. Deux-mille-deux-cents Kilomètres.

Gebran Bassil

This is by far the event of the month (Hint: It’s also about Yemen). A couple of days after the Saudis launched their campaign, Gebran Bassil, the FPM’s no.2 dropped April’s political bomb: From the Sharm Sheikh summit, he told the world that he expressed support for “legitimacy in any Arab country, especially in Yemen”. Four days later, Bassil struck again: “We don’t wish to see Hezbollah fighting with the Houthis or see anyone from the Future Movement fighting alongside the Saudis”. For the second time in the same week, Bassil was indirectly criticizing the FPM’s key ally, Hezbollah. True, the last statement also included Future Movement criticism, but the very fact that Gebran Bassil dared to start a “mini rebellion” against Hezbollah means a lot, even if it’s just a simple maneuver to make the FPM look as if they care about Lebanon and Lebanon only. Gebran Bassil’s stances were actually so strong that Aoun had to intervene in the very beginning of April with reports saying that he described the Saudi war in Yemen as illegal. But that did not stop Bassil from continuing what he started: On the second day of April, he said that “National unity remains an overriding priority for Lebanon’s foreign policy“.

Aoun’s relative silence here says a lot too. I’m going to put in context: “He [Samir Geagea] said after holding talks with Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi at Bkirki: “In principle, there is nothing stopping Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun from becoming president, but we have to take into consideration his political platform.”” (April 3)

Walid Jumblatt

Gebran Bassil wasn’t the only one criticizing Hezbollah this month. On March 30, Jumblatt launched an anti-Iran tirade. This stance was followed by a direct critique of Nasrallah’s speech on the first of April, describing it as lacking objectivity. By the 19th of April, Jumblatt asked “What’s wrong with Nasrallah?“. Jumblatt criticizes Hezbollah every now and then, but this time it came together with a Bassil criticism. It was not a very pleasant month for the party of God.

Tammam Salam

Not a very pleasant month indeed. As if the waves of criticism coming from the FPM, the FM, the PSP, the Saudi ambassador and the Grand Mufti weren’t enough, the Prime Minister said that Beirut supported any move that preserves Sanaa’s “sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

If you have been following Lebanese politics for the past few months, you’d notice that Hezbollah usually doesn’t get into a war of words with Tammam Salam (Because weakening him would mean strengthening his ally/rival Hariri). Well, guess what? The pressure was too high on Hezbollah this time that the party’s minister in the cabinet Hussein Hajj Hassan said in a statement that “Prime Minister Tammam Salam’s remarks on the Saudi military intervention in Yemen at the Arab League summit two days ago do not represent the views of the Lebanese government”

But to be fair here, Salam’s pro-Saudi stance (even if discreet) is understandable. It was Saudi pressure that eventually brought Salam to the premiership in April 2013. This is why Hezbollah probably didn’t make a big deal out of it and chose to calm things down in the cabinet meeting.

Nabih Berri

Even Berri tried to distance himself and Amal as much as possible from the FM-Hezbollah clash over Yemen. Within 7 days, the speaker said he supported three things: (1) Oman’s efforts to solve the crisis (April 1), (2) himself hosting the Yemeni dialogue 😛  (April 5) and (3) moving forward with the FM-Hezbollah talks he’s mediating (April 8).

With Tammam Salam and Jumblatt pushed slightly/temporarily towards M14, Berri found himself in April as the new Kingmaker in the Lebanese centre. He wants to host the Yemeni dialogue, because solving the presidential crisis in Lebanon is so 2008.

The Three Blows

Hezbollah suffered three more blows this month. The first blow was when M8 politician Michel Samaha confessed on the 20th of April that he transported explosives (with support of Syrian regime officials) into Lebanon with the aim of targeting Lebanese politicians and religious figures. (Although deep down, and as I said three years ago, this could be a good thing for Hezbollah since it would give the impression that they had nothing to do with the assassinations of the M14 politicians, and that it was Syria via its operatives all the time)

The second blow was the mysterious death of Rustum Ghazali, Syria’s man in Lebanon from 2002 till the 2005 withdrawal. While his death doesn’t have direct or even indirect consequences on the Lebanese scene, Lebanese and Syrian politics are still interconnected and it was seen as victory for M14. And a victory for M14 is never a victory for M8.

And because it wasn’t yet the worst month for M8 since the beginning of time, the third blow came from The Maronite Patriarch who accused Aoun and his March 8 allies of being responsible for the presidential vacuum. That’s the most violent criticism coming from the Maronite church since August 2014.

Yemen and the Baabda Declaration

Also, in other news, Michel Sleiman indirectly declared his candidacy as a “consensual candidate” if all parties accept the Baabda declaration and distance themselves from outside conflicts (inspired from the Lebanese dilemma over Yemen). His reelection would be unconstitutional: Presidents can’t have two consecutive terms in Lebanon. But then again, he was elected unconstitutionally since grade one civil servants need a constitutional amendment to be elected ( something the parliament did not do when they elected him in 2008), so who cares.

If a former protector of the constitution gets elected unconstitutionally and wants to get reelected unconstitutionally, I really don’t know what to say.

Actually, I know what to say. I’ll just repeat what I said at the beginning of the post: Lebanon is a successful democratic sovereign free republic.

341 days since the 25th of May. 177 days since the 5th of November. 773 days till the next parliamentary elections. Just kidding. We’re never going to have elections again 😀

Also, 3 days since Salma Hayek came to Lebanon.

(This last sentence was an attempt to make this political blog more “social”)

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The WikiLebanon Files (Part III): Gemayel’s Comments On Sleiman (2009)

Gemayel and Sleiman

Gemayel and Sleiman

ANOTHER WIKILEAKS POST? AGAIN? (In case you missed it, I published around 40 WikiLeaks cables dating from the 70s and 80s in order to to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Lebanese Civil War.)

But hey, on the bright side, today’s cable is a short one, and I’m mainly publishing it because it mentions several negative comments that Gemayel said about Sleiman right after the parliamentary elections in 2009 (Look for the sentences in bold at the end).

The relevance of this cable right now comes from the fact that the two former presidents, Gemayel and Sleiman, have recently joined hands together and formed an alliance/rapprochement/agreement/gathering  (I have no idea what to call it) that apparently seeks to create a unified bloc for the small parties represented in the government (although deep down we all know that this rapprochement is in fact a reaction to the Aoun-Geagea dialogue and an epic-fail tentative of a “centrist presidential campaign”).

Hope you enjoy the cable.

LEBANON: GEMAYEL SAYS MARCH 14 MUST STAND FIRM AGAINST A BLOCKING THIRD
2009 June 11, 14:50 (Thursday)
09BEIRUT654_a
CONFIDENTIAL
CONFIDENTIAL
— Not Assigned —

(b) and (d).

SUMMARY

——-

1. (C) In a June 10 meeting with the Ambassador, Kataeb Party leader Amine Gemayel stressed that March 14 must be strong in opposing a blocking third for the opposition in the new cabinet, even if government formation takes longer as a result. He worried that some of his March 14 allies would be more “docile” in their dialogue with Hizballah. Gemayel said he would seek clarification from Hizballah on where its allegiance lies, and what its definition of sovereignty is. He believed National Dialogue participants should be chosen based on the number of seats each bloc received in parliament, with special allowances for under-represented confessions. He predicted that Amal leader Nabih Berri would once again be Speaker of Parliament, but thought it would be good to circulate other names for the position, to put Berri on notice following his negative role in the previous parliament. He also expounded on how the election results heralded the return of the Kataeb Party to its historical place of importance. End summary.

NO BLOCKING THIRD; MUST BE CLEAR WITH HIZBALLAH

—————————-

2. (C) The Ambassador, accompanied by EconOff, called on Amine Gemayel at Kataeb Party headquarters in Beirut June 10. Losing Kataeb candidate (Keserwan) Sejean Qazzi and a Kataeb notetaker also attended the meeting. Gemayel expressed his pleasure that March 14 had won such a solid majority in the June 7 elections, but he emphasized that Hizballah was still present on the ground, with forces stronger than those of the Lebanese army. This situation would make government formation difficult and possibly long. Nonetheless, Gemayel believed it crucial that March 14 stand together against any opposition calls for a blocking third in the new cabinet. He pointed to the impasse that reigned in the previous cabinet, and said March 14 needed to create a government that can function effectively.

3. (C) Gemayel worried that some of his March 14 allies would tend toward being too “docile” in a dialogue with Hizballah, and he stressed it was important for March 14 not to compromise its principles. He felt March 14 decision-making would be more productive if it were run by a directorate of its party leaders, rather than through the intermediary of a March 14 secretariat. With the secretariat out of the way, said Gemayel, the leadership could determine a joint path to take in any dialogue with Hizballah. He was not certain March 14’s strong showing in the elections would tame March 14 Druze leader Walid Jumblatt’s desire to engage more with Hizballah, but stressed that Kataeb would not compromise on the issue of the blocking third.

4, (C) Gemayel complained that in past discussions with Hizballah, March 14 leaders had danced around issues, using vague language that Hizballah could interpret in a variety of ways. It is imperative to be clear on what we stand for, he explained, and to ask for clarification from Hizballah on its definition of certain concepts, such as allegiance (“is Hizballah’s allegiance with Lebanon or with Iran?”) and sovereignty, ideas at the heart of national identity. Gemayel was emphatic that these issues should be ironed out before forming a government, even if the process takes longer. He suggested that if things dragged out longer than expected, perhaps the President could put in place an interim technocratic government, as Gemayel himself had done when he was president during the civil war.

NATIONAL DIALOGUE: WHO SHOULD PARTICIPATE?

BEIRUT 00000654 002 OF 002

———————–

5. (C) Gemayel believed participants in the National Dialogue following the elections should be chosen according to the criteria established by Speaker Nabih Berri in 2006. All blocs with four or more seats in parliament should send a representative, with the president appointing representatives of confessional groups not otherwise represented at the dialogue table. (Note: Gemayel participated in the current version of the dialogue with only two seats in parliament, because he is a former president. His suggestion that representatives should have at least 4 seats to participate would exclude opposition Christian Suleiman Frangieh, whose Marada party won 3 seats. End note.) He argued that March 14 Armenians, who won four seats in these elections, should send their own representative to the dialogue, replacing Tashnaq MP Hagop Pakradounian, whose party won only two seats. He believed Michel Pharaon, the re-elected Greek Catholic MP from Beirut I, should replace Elie Skaff, who lost his race in Zahle.

BERRI TO REMAIN

—————

6. (C) Gemayel said Berri enjoyed wide support for his candidacy to remain parliament speaker, and noted that both Hizballah and Jumblatt had expressed their intention to vote for him. He believed Saad Hariri would also have his bloc — the largest in parliament — vote for Berri. That said, Gemayel thought it a good idea to start floating names of other Shia as possible candidates, from March 14 Beirut III MP Ghazi Youssef or new Zahle MP Okab Sakr, to put Berri on notice that there were other options available. He assessed such as March 14 should call Berri to task for his behavior during the last parliament, when he shut down parliament operations for over a year, and set conditions for his re-election.

SLEIMAN STILL STRONG

——————–

7. (C) Gemayel disagreed with observers who believe former presidential advisor Nazem Khoury’s defeat in the parliamentary race in Jbeil weakened President Sleiman. He saw Khoury’s loss as a result of his lack of charisma, as well as his place “stuck between the two camps.” The President should not be blamed, believed Gemayel, because he remained neutral and did not intervene on Khoury’s behalf. (Comment: Some contacts have told us Sleiman made attempts to drum up for support for Khoury in the final days of campaigning through is army contacts in Jbeil, which may have backfired. Khoury’s victorious opponent from the opposition complained strongly to us about the President’s interference. End comment.) Gemayel added that Sleiman was never a true political figure in Jbeil, so the political loss should not hurt his stature. “He’s a military man, not a regional leader. He is just from there,” said Gemayel.

“KATAEB HAS TAKEN BACK ITS RIGHTFUL PLACE”

———————-

8. (C) Gemayel spoke at length on how his party’s winning five seats in the new parliament — after having two MPs in the previous parliament, both of whom were assassinated — placed Kataeb back at the center of Lebanese politics. He said his candidates had worked hard to win, and he believed that his young MPs (his son Sami Gemayel and his nephew Nadeem Gemayel) would bring youth to his party, which had a long history in Lebanese politics. “We have always been moderators in Lebanon, and protectors of Lebanese sovereignty,” he said.

SISON

Ten Months Of Vacuum

Meet the members of The Consultative Gathering

Meet the members of The Consultative Gathering

Yeah. I know. Ten.

Before I begin, here’s a small recap of the ninth month of presidential vacancy: It started with Hezbollah launching an operation in the Shebaa farms. When Israel did not respond, Hezbollah was supposed to gain momentum on the Lebanese political scene. But Hariri launched an epic maneuver, and Hezbollah did not politically escalate. In the end, it was a tie.

The second half of February and March are more exciting. Way more exciting.

The Two Presidents’ Men

In the last half of February, PM Salam wanted to amend the cabinet’s voting mechanism after several cabinet members began exercising veto power, stalling several of the government’s projects. What happens next? 7 Lebanese ministers meet and decide to form a “consultative gathering”. The ministers are the ones who are loyal to Amine Gemayel and to Michel Sleiman. The rapprochement between the ministers was logical: They all either belong to one of the smallest Lebanese parties in parliament or represent a former president that no longer has any concrete power (not even one MP). The 7 MPs have two more things in common: In a time of presidential vacancy, (1) they all answer to two of the three former presidents that are still alive while (2) not belonging to any of the two main Christian Lebanese parties. Deep down, it’s not about the voting mechanism, as it is about two political groups marking their territory. The two presidents know that they have no power in parliament that would ensure their same important presence in the next Lebanese cabinet. And they also know that they have an enormous amount of prestige (as former presidents) and that the mainstream Muslim parties are annoyed by the LF, the FPM and the two parties’ rivalry preventing them from supporting Aoun, Geagea, or any other alternative than Aoun and Geagea. Again, this is not about the voting mechanism: This is an advertisement. They are showing the Muslim leadership that there is a possible alternative to the FPM/LF choice: A new “prestigious” presidential Christian alliance that is very weak on the ground (and thus that will not ask for too much power – even if it wanted to), and that could still be –  to some extent – representative of Lebanese Christians. The two presidents are asking for political relevance, and in exchange, they will be an asset to weaken the LF, the FPM, or a possible (yet highly unlikely) LF-FPM alliance. For example, if the FPM and the LF reject Kahwaji as consensual candidate, Hezbollah and the FM could count on this new gathering to support the presidential candidacy of Kahwaji. After all, who cares about the other politicians if the biggest party in parliament and the most armed one – along with two former presidents and the army – endorse you?

And the advertisement worked: One of the closest Christian ministers to the FM, Michel Pharaon (Boutros Harb is also a member), joined the new gathering led by Sleiman and Gemayel. Now of course, this rapprochement between the two presidents could eventually have no impact at all, but one should keep in mind right now that the mainstream Muslim parties would have more leverage with their Christian allies (the FPM and the LF).

Hariri also succeeded to undermine the power of PM Tammam Salam (hello there, rivalry) by indirectly encouraging discontent in the cabinet. It’s been a good month of the Future Movement, especially that a new March 14 “national council” likely to reinvigorate the Mustaqbal-led coalition has seen the light.

Approximately one year after the presidential race began, the Maronite Four might be welcoming a new member to their closed group, President Michel Sleiman. The Maronite Four could soon become the Maronite Five.

The Maronite Two

The Aounists and the Lebanese Forces are also about to reach an understanding. The process – whose unannounced intention was probably to slow down the Hezbollah-FM dialogue – has accelerated probably due to the Gemayel-Sleiman rapprochement. The progress in the LF-FPM dialogue could mean two things: (1) That the two main Christian parties are trying to keep the president’s seat to themselves. In other words, the document of understanding could say that only both politicians would be eligible to run for presidency and no one else. Proof? On the 15th of March, Michel Aoun told us once again that he would only agree to a strong president and not to a consensual accordWelcome back to 2014. But it could also mean that (2) no consensual candidate would become president unless the two Christian parties agree on him. This written paper, as useless as it might seem, should put an end to the Muslim parties’ maneuvering and make Aoun and Geagea panic less about the possibility that Hezbollah and Mustaqbal would go through with a consensual candidate of their own. But in the end we (and they) all know that at least one of the Christians leaders will eventually agree to his ally’s terms. But hey, as they say an Arabic, el mhemm el niyye. An FPM-LF document of understanding should hinder for some time any M8-M14 agreement on Kahwaji (or any other consensual candidate for that matter).

Meanwhile, Sleiman Frangieh, who is probably feeling abandoned by everyone (by “everyone” I mean the Gemayel- Sleiman and Aoun-Geagea talks), launched his own political maneuver and preemptively self-proclaimed himself March 8’s number-two presidential candidate after Aoun pulls out.

Quand le chat n’est pas là, les souris dansent

Right now everyone is acting as if there’s a president in office: Berri wants to call for a parliamentary session amid presidential vacuum (It’s arguably unconstitutional, but hey, who cares). Moreover, the Lebanese cabinet is acting as if it’s not a caretaker one anymore: It spent at least two weeks trying to figure out a decision-making mechanism while there’s no president in power, instead of actually pressuring the parliament to elect a president. Our minister of foreign affairs too forgot that he was a caretaker cabinet member, and decided – like Phileas Fogg – to embark on a journey around the world signing treaties in 10 Latin American countries. (Someone should tell him that signing historic treaties with Cuba is not a priority right now)

Because that’s what care-taking apparently means: Doing everything you can do before someone in charge (a president) comes and tells you that you can’t do it.

When Lebanese politicians suddenly become too greedy, it usually means two things: (1) The status quo is going to end really soon (notice the very high number of decrees that Lebanese cabinets pass in the weeks before leaving power), or (2) the status quo is going to stay for a lot of time, and everyone wants to make sure that their slice of the pizza is in the fridge ready to be eaten whenever they get hungry. Meanwhile, on the southern side of Mount Lebanon, Walid Jumblatt is trying to benefit as much as possible from the vacancy and finish his transition of power before a president who is likely to be from the Chouf tries to interfere from the Beiteddine palace.

But one thing is for sure. It’s no longer about a electing a consensual candidate now. It’s about who would look like the winner once the consensual candidate is chosen.

305 days since the 25th of May. 141 days since the 5th of November. 3 Million years till the next parliamentary elections. 

I don’t know if it matters anymore , but here’s the monthly reminder anyway: We still don’t have a president.

Michel Sleiman, 2008-2014: The Legacy (Full)

Mr. Speaker, esteemed members of the parliament,

I would have been extremely delighted to begin this mandate with moments of joy; nevertheless, I am confident that our silence will be praised by the souls of our martyrs who are close to God Almighty, since this mandate will be laying the foundations for a new promising phase, for the citizens of our beloved country which is rising from this stumble, thanks to the Lebanese people’s awareness, their refusal to fall the victims of fratricide, and the efforts our loyal friends and brethren have undertaken to mitigate the effects of these unfortunate events and to eliminate their consequences.

Today, by taking the oath, I am calling upon you all, political parties and citizens, to start a new phase which title is Lebanon and the Lebanese people, where we commit ourselves to a national project agreed upon with a futuristic mentality in order to serve the interests of our homeland and prioritize them over our sectarian and confessional interests, and over all the others’ interests.

On the 25th of May 2008, when Michel Sleiman assumed his responsibilities as Lebanon’s new president, he gave an inaugural speech in front of the parliament.  The speech (This is the official English version) includes the president’s plan for the next six years, and the goals he plans on achieving before leaving office on the 25th of May 2014.

Today, the 25th of May 2014, is judgment day. You’ll find the whole speech below, in italics, with comments on what was achieved in order to fulfill the promises of 2008.

1. Activating the role of constitutional institutions

The desired political stability makes incumbent upon us to activate the role of the constitutional institutions where the political ideas and dissimilarities will be dealt with, in order to reach common denominators which secure the interests of the homeland and the people.

The political disagreement and the resulting constitutional problematic we have encountered should motivate us, not only to find the solutions to the problems that we might face in the future, but also to achieve the proper balance required between the competences and responsibilities in a way to enable the institutions and the Presidency of the Republic included to assume the role they are entrusted with.

Between the 25th Of May 2008 and the 25th of May 2014, the Lebanese president had 2191 days to rule. His first cabinet (Siniora) took a total of 79 days (25 May 2008 – 12 August 2008) to be formed and receive the vote of confidence. The second cabinet (Hariri) took a total of 187 days (7 June 2009 – election day, 10 December 2009) to be formed and receive the vote of confidence. The third cabinet (Mikati) took a total of 177 days (12 January 2011 – resignation of the M8 ministers, 7 July 2011) to be formed and receive the vote of confidence. The fourth cabinet (Salam) took a total of 364 days (22 March 2013 – Mikati’s resignation, 20 March 2014) to be formed and receive the vote of confidence. 79+187+177+364=807 days. 807/2191= 36%.

So to sum things up, 36% of Michel Sleiman’s time in power lacked a functioning executive power. Needless to say that the Lebanese parliament cannot legislate with no government in power, and cannot meet in summer, which means that during Sleiman’s 6 years, the parliament had a  maximum of 3 years to pass laws and amendments (around 50% of the time).

In his inaugural speech, Sleiman spoke of two things regarding the deadlock: 1) Activating the role of constitutional institutions, and 2) Finding solutions to the time-consuming deadlocks. Never in its whole history has Lebanon seen such time-consuming government formations. Tammam Salam and Najib Mikati both broke Rachid Karami’s 1969 record (7 months) in 2014 when they became the new record holders for tardiness in forming cabinet and acting as caretaker PM. The Lebanese parliament had been previously shut down by Berri for 17 Months (2007-2008) during the rule of the first Siniora cabinet, but relatively speaking, the parliament only stopped legislating at the very end of Lahoud’s mandate. The paralysis in the legislative branch was by far more pronounced during Sleiman’s tenure. The low productivity of the parliament is frightening: between June 2009 and March 2013, the parliament convened 21 times only, and voted laws 13 times out of 21. (The numbers are from the official parliamentary gazette, Al Hayat Al Niyabiya). Only 183 laws were voted (a very low number), and the vast majority of these laws are either useless or minor. And if you think that productivity increased after 2013, don’t. The parliament actually didn’t even meet to legislate for more than a year after the last session of 2013. Aslan min elo jlede.

And how was the president concerned with the demise of the constitutional institutions? The president has failed twice here. True, the president has little or no power concerning Lebanese politics. But he – unlike the popular hearsay- still has a lot of powers that he is not using. (1) The president had the power – according to article 33 of the constitution –  to “summon the Chamber to extraordinary sessions by a decree that specifies the dates of the opening and closing of the extraordinary sessions as well as the agenda.” In other words, the Lebanese president could have forced the parliament to meet in Summer – hence compensating  for wasted time. The deputies would’ve probably stayed home, but at least the president would have managed to expose them as lazy greedy elected officials. (2) The president could have pushed for a constitutional amendment setting a maximum of 60 days for a designated prime minister to form a cabinet. The Lebanese president is also one of the two individuals concerned with forming the government. Instead of wasting hundreds of days to form them, the president could have easily issued a deadline for the politicians to agree. Such maneuvers would have accelerated the process of policy making while making it easier. But no, it had to be 807 days.

2. Reform? What reform?

Lebanon, the country of mission, crossroad of civilizations and haven of pluralism, prompts us all to endeavor and engage ourselves in political, administrative, economic and security reforms. This will enable us to restore our country’s exemplary role on the international scene.
Lebanon has chosen to conform to the “Taef” agreement, and it is called to safeguard and consolidate this choice because it stems from a united national will, which is imperative to immunize any political decision.

Between 2008 and 2014, the country was supposed to witness political, administrative, economic and security reforms. Politically speaking, only one main reform was worked upon to achieve: the electoral law of 2008. However, this law plummeted in an exceptional way and was regarded as an epic failure by all the politicians – to the extent that elections were postponed in order to avoid it in 2013, and since the 2008 electoral law lacked most of the recommendations for reform suggested by the Boutros Commission  (such as official pre-printed ballots, partial proportional representation, a 30% women’s quota, an independent electoral commission, lowering the voting age from 21 to 18, out of country voting, access for people with special needs – only holding the election on one day and campaign finance and media regulations were taken into consideration) the 2008 electoral law can barely be considered as political reform. Even the new electoral proposed in 2012 was a very biased one.

Economically speaking, the country’s economy is today in one of its worst days. The 4 Lebanese cabinets under Michel Sleiman did not even make the effort to appoint a new general assembly for the economic and social council, whose mandate had expired in December 2002. On another more depressing and alarming note, the Lebanese parliament failed to pass the state’s budget since 2005, officially making Michel Sleiman the first president in the history of the republic to rule without an up-to-date budget. Again, the Lebanese president should not be judged for the failure of the parliament, but pressure from the president – like refusing to sign decrees and laws that are crucial for the well-being of Lebanon’s politicians before the parliament had passed a new budget – would have been a welcomed gesture. After all, the public debt has never been so high, public strikes – revealing popular discontent from the situation – have never been so frequent while the main economic reform championed by the parliament was a law destined to give a pay raise for the MPs. Further, another example of Michel Sleiman’s bad economic policies also appeared at the very  end of his mandate, when he didn’t sign the new rent law (approved by parliament) that provided a breakthrough regarding the stalemate between landlords and old tenants after more than three decades of deliberation.

3. National pacts

Furthermore, it is the national pact which is analogous to the constitution that joins the Lebanese together based on their own will. It proved to be stronger and far more sublime than any other external will.

Our external relations will be most effective and adequate if they were based on this pact, and thus the interests of Lebanon will be safeguarded and its particularity will be respected; this will enable our country to regain its effective role in the Arab world and the International Community as the living example of the coexistence between the cultures.

The national pact isn’t only about power sharing between Lebanon’s sects. What matters the most in this unwritten accord is the oath Lebanon’s main politicians took to abstain from inviting foreign intervention. While the pact is mostly viewed as a Muslim-Christian deal to split the country’s top posts,  it’s far more than that. Christians gave up French protection while Muslims gave up Pan Arab Union aspirations. The biggest irony in Michel Sleiman’s inaugural speech is that he was publicly praising the national pact  – a symbol of rejecting foreign interference – after being elected due to a Qatari mediated deal in Doha between France, U.S., Syria, and Iran. Even the constitution Michel Sleiman was taking an oath to protect actually carried the name of a Saudi city were it was written, 19 years earlier: Taef. The same regional players would also massively intervene in Lebanese politics during the next 6 years. The formation of governments did not happen without regional consensus and in the 2009 elections parties were massively funded by foreign states. No measure was taken between 2008 and 2012 to reduce foreign influence in Lebanese politics which finally resulted in the 2013 Syrian spillover.

4. Dialogue

Esteemed members of the parliament,

The people have placed their confidence in us to accomplish their ambitions, and not to confuse them with our political differences.

Probably the most dangerous threat which rose in the last years manifested itself in a political speech based on a treason language and mutual accusations, which paved the way to a state of divergence and discord especially among youth. This is the reason why it is essential to realize this fact, to work on fortifying our country and our coexistence through dialogue and to avoid transforming the country into an open arena for conflicts.

Although Sleiman was elected in a consensual deal, and although his 6 years in power were expected to be years of stability – Lebanon witnessed a revolution in 2005, an Israeli war in 2006, a political crisis in 2007 and a mini civil-war in 2008 – this stability was far from true. The problems appeared again with Syria’s civil war spillover in Lebanon since 2012, along with the 2 cabinet crisis of 2011 and 2013 and the comeback of assassinationsexplosions and regular clashes. Lebanon was far from being on the path of stability.

5. Rotation of what again?

The main characteristic of democracy resides in the rotation of power through free elections. It is certainly essential to adopt an electoral law which ensures the sound representation, consolidates the relation between the citizens and their representatives, and guarantees the mirroring of the choices and ambitions of the people, however, it is also important to accept the results of these elections and to respect the popular will.

Furthermore, the independence of the judicial authority consolidates justice which constitutes a safe haven to all people whose rights are violated, and secures a public order to all the public utilities. Hence, the effects of this independence will not be restricted to judgments rendering, since justice is safe hands, it is the pillar of all powers.

The main characteristic of democracy resides in the rotation of power through free elections. Furthermore, the independence of the judicial authority consolidates justice and secures a public order to all the public utilities.” The fun part? Exactly 5 years later, the Lebanese parliament decided that there was no need for free elections and rotation of power was too mainstream for a country such as Lebanon. The Lebanese president tried to stop the parliament by calling on Lebanon’s most prestigious judicial authority – the constitutional council – to convene and study the constitutionality of the 17-months extension. However, and since five of council judges are voted by the parliament and the other five are designated by the cabinet – because, as the president said, independence of  the judicial authority secures a public order to all the public utilities – the politically dependent council refused to convene and the extension of the parliament’s mandate became a de-facto decision to deal with.

The Lebanese president did what was expected of him, but there was more he could have done. The parliament voted the law extending its mandate on the 31st of May 2013. Elections were due in June. According to the Lebanese constitution, article 59 “The President of the Republic may adjourn the Chamber for a period not exceeding one month. He may not do so twice during the same session.” If the president had used this power the constitution gave him, the parliament wouldn’t have convened to vote the extension law, and the June elections would have happened anyway. Even if the parliament did manage to pass the law somehow, the president still could have refused to sign it and publish it into the official gazette for a certain period of time. And even if the president was eventually entitled by the constitution to sign it, he could have considered it unconstitutional – since the constitutional council was too coward to discuss it and since the constitution names the president as the “protector of the constitution” – which means that there was no possible way for the parliament’s extension law to pass if the president wanted to block it. Perhaps the president thought that an extension of the parliament’s mandate also meant an extension to his mandate or making his weak power look as surpassing a weaker parliament… Anyway, three things to remember from all this: no justice, no elections, no democracy. And with generals assuming more and more political responsibilities, Lebanon was starting to look like a military state. Perhaps the president should be admired for his decision to refuse any extension of his mandate – his two predecessors stayed 9 years in office – but then again, it was his constitutional duty to leave after 6 years.

The president’s idea of justice was also the appointment of Ashraf Rifi as justice minister – He was ironically being sued by the Lebanese government for refusing to abide to his superior’s orders.

6. “You are asking questions I am not really aware of, about details that are not really important.” (Gebran Bassil)

Moreover, national responsibility imposes upon us to encourage the youth generation capacities to accede to the public sector institutions in a way to prevent its decline and enables us to establish a younger and more competent administration. This responsibility also makes it inevitable to rely on the good choices and decisions, to consolidate the surveillance organisms and thus to reward the meritorious, set right the negligent, and remove the corrupted from office.

Michel Sleiman’s idea of removing the corrupted from office was accepting the appointment of  controversial figures in top posts. Fouad Siniora headed his first cabinet in 2008, and Gebran Bassil – infamous for answering the question of what happened with 34 Million dollars of public money with “You are asking questions I am not really aware of, about details that are not really important  remained a minister in all four cabinets. And that’s only the beginning of a long (very long) list of names. True, the ministers probably never represented Sleiman in the government, but he still had the upper hand in the cabinet formation, and vetoing the names of controversial politicians or even freezing the formation because of their nomination would have sent a big message. By the end of his term even the president himself was accused with several corruption scandals.

7. “The youth generation is our promising future

Gentlemen,

We will achieve the objective of dissipating the suspicions of the youth by building a country they will be proud to belong to; a country to rise by their capacities, expertise and participation in finding the solutions. Let us all allow them to guide us where we have failed, on the grounds that the youth generation resisted the occupation and terrorism and fought for the independence. The youth generation is our promising future, the wounds thickened them but made them stronger and some of them became handicapped and thus their rights should be guaranteed according to the laws and regulations.

The idea of encouraging the youth to accede to the public sector eventually ended up in the failure to pass a constitutional amendment giving the right to vote to Lebanese citizens between 18 and 21 and a Lebanese average age in the cabinet of…60 years old. Apparently 60 years and Sheikh El Chabeb are the same thing.

8. “Reformative educational policy in our schools

It is noteworthy to bear in mind the importance of a reformative educational policy in our schools and universities, a policy which will restore their significant role in this region.

Just to make things clear here, in 2008, the Lebanese history school books stopped in 1946 because there is no consensus on what happened next.  In 2014, the Lebanese history school books still stop in 1946 because there is no consensus on what happened next. But yeah, it is noteworthy to bear in mind the importance of a reformative educational policy in our schools. El mhemm el niyye.

9. Diaspora, Tourism, Economy Wel Shabeb

The Lebanese communities in the Diaspora are looking up and hoping to see their homeland rising from underneath the ashes once more and therefore we should acknowledge the rights of the Lebanese immigrants and proceed with the measures which will reinforce their adhesion and interaction with Lebanon. We should also resort to their capacities and engage them in a way that will make them feel as actual citizens and far more worthy of the Lebanese nationality than those who acquired it illegitimately.

Emerging from the state of recession and activating the economic cycle necessitate political and security stability as well as the patronage of the State to encourage the competitive production process. Thereupon, the plans of attracting investments and securing a friendly environment can fight against unemployment and immigration.

This fact also leads to the necessity of attaching great importance to our productive economy in the industrial, agricultural, and services fields and the importance of spreading the environmental culture and emphasizing on this country’s aspects of tourism.

For the president, acknowledging the rights of Lebanese immigrants was of high importance. Since  late 2008 Law gives expatriates the right to vote in the elections. However the elections didn’t happen, and even if they did happen, a failure of the Lebanese Foreign Ministry to raise awareness of the registration process would have made it impossible for Lebanese abroad to vote in the parliamentary elections.

Sleiman also made sure to visit every possible country in the world, in order to strengthen the ties with the Lebanese abroad. The trips – that costed the state 9 million dollars, more than it actually spends on industry, culture, or sports – were useless. One might understand visiting France once or twice like in 2008 and meeting foreign leaders. One might even understand the Cyprus, SyriaQatar, Iran and Saudi Arabia trips. The U.N. New York trips are a must. But Michel Sleiman ‘s trips were too many, and there was always useless leisure time. Armenia. Mexico. Brazil. Russia. Spain. Great Britain. Australia. The Czech Republic. Romania. Uruguay. Argentina. Switzerland. Canada. Italy. Vatican. Egypt. Germany. Jordan. Kuwait. Bahrain. U.A.E. Oman. Turkey. And there’s a lot more (West Africa..). Perhaps the president may do as he wishes, but for millions of times, the cabinet formation was delayed because the president was touring abroad. And that’s only an example of the trips’ repercussions. The whole point of these paragraphs in the inaugural speech was to bring the Lebanese back home and stimulate tourism, not send the president abroad. Although tourism in Lebanon flourished in 2010, tourist traffic at Beirut airport is down at 40% since 2010. Of course, the Syrian Civil war is to blame here, but there were lots of things that could have been done to save the tourism seasons. But instead of enacting reforms reinforcing stability and promoting tourism, politicians opted to travel abroad.

 10. Decentralization

The balanced development is an essential pillar of the country’s unity and the regime’s stability; we consider that the implementation of the wide administrative decentralization constitutes an important factor for this development to achieve the required reform in the field of social, economic and cultural disparity between the Lebanese regions. Furthermore, it is imperative to attach a great importance to the return of the displaced in a way to close this file permanently.

Michel Sleiman had 6 years to pass a decentralization law, and to apply it. He could have taken 1 year to prepare the draft, another to push for it in the parliament, and 4 other years to make sure it’s successfully implemented. But no, the draft law had to be presented to the parliament 1 month before he left office. You know, because one should take his time to implement crucial, long-awaited reforms.

11. STL, People, State and Armies

Gentlemen,

Our abidance by the charters of the United Nations and our observance of its resolutions are due to our firm conviction in the International legitimacy based on the principles of justice and right. Consequently, we would like to confirm our participation in the establishment of the International tribunal with regard to the assassination of the martyr Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and his companions, as well as the assassinations which followed in order to bring justice.

The evolution of the Resistance was a need during the impotence of the state and the persistence of this Resistance was achieved by virtue of the support granted by the Lebanese people, the State, and the Lebanese Army.

The success of the Resistance in the mission of vanquishing the israeli occupier springs from the courage and greatness of its martyrs and yet, the farms of “Shebaa” which are still occupied and the enemy’s persistence in threatening to violate our sovereignty impose upon us to elaborate a defensive strategy that will safeguard the country concomitantly with a calm dialogue to benefit from the capacities of the resistance in order to better serve this strategy. Accordingly, we will manage to avoid depreciating the achievements of the resistance in internal conflicts and subsequently we will safeguard its values and national position. This day coincides with the National Day of liberation and victory and therefore I hope that this occasion prompts us to be more and more conscious of the dangers that are threatening us and to renew our adherence to freedom and democracy to which we have suffered and sacrificed in order to ensure and safeguard our homeland.

The Lebanese president, in his inaugural speech, insisted on the importance of the people, army, resistance formula (The evolution of the Resistance was a need during the impotence of the state and the persistence of this Resistance was achieved by virtue of the support granted by the Lebanese people, the State, and the Lebanese Army). The president also assured his support to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (the Hariri Tribunal). Just as an interesting fact, his last cabinet did not include both statements in the ministerial declaration – showing a clear change of policy between 2008 and 2014, and the defensive strategy that was expected to see light during his rule never did, probably due to the fact that he started taking sides – although it was constitutionally unwise to do so (The constitution clearly says in article 49 that “The President of the Republic is the head of the state and the symbol of the nation’s unity. He shall safeguard the constitution and Lebanon’s independence, unity, and territorial integrity). Apparently countering the Israeli threat meant rewarding the Judge that let go some of the Israeli spies with ministerial positions. Who knew.

12. …For The Homeland Embraces All Of Its Sons

In this context we should dedicate ourselves wholeheartedly to the mission of freeing the prisoners and the detainees as well as revealing the destiny of the missing persons in addition to recovering our sons who sought refuge in Israel, for the homeland embraces all of its sons.

There has been no progress in freeing the detainees in Syrian prisons, and a law passed  in 2011 still assured punishment for the former members of the Southern Lebanese Army (although it did allow their families to come home without being arrested).

13. Fraternity

Lebanon has and will always persist in strengthening the relations with the Arab brethren and thus we are looking forward to achieve a relation of fraternity between Lebanon and Syria in the framework of mutual respect to the sovereignty and the border of both states, and diplomatic relations which will serve the interests of the two countries.
What is most important in this concern resides in the perfect implementation of the equal relations which will be lacking all past flaws, and accordingly we will benefit from the past experiences to avoid any upcoming problems and to ensure the interests, the prosperity and the security of the two brother countries.

Syrian-Lebanese mutual respect became so intimate that by the end of 2013, most of the Lebanese were either pro-Syrian opposition or pro-Syrian regime. In other words, the whole republic suddenly became pro-Syrian during Michel Sleiman’s rule.  Lebanon became so Syrian that rival Lebanese parties decided to go into Syria and help their brothers in the faith. Welcome to the Semi-Autonomous Lebanese Republic of Syria, I guess. And the way to counter this was playing the March 8 and 14 alliances one against the other and destabilizing the country even more. In this regard the Baabda declaration was rather a good decision, although its application turned out to be a nightmare.

14. 50% Yes, 50% No

Fellow compatriots,

The State can not disregard any security violation and shall never allow in any case using a certain party as a source to reinforce terrorism or to advance the Palestinian cause as a pretense to purchase weapons, the thing that might destabilize the country. This type of incidents occurred last year when the Lebanese Army was attacked.

Let us work all together to deal with the repercussions of these incidents by remedying the wounds and reconstructing what has been destroyed. Pains are overwhelming but let us cling to hope. The weapons should always be pointed at the enemy and we will not allow any side to point them elsewhere.  Our firm rejection of the settlement does not mean that we object to host our brother Palestinians and to take care of their humanitarian rights, this rejection stems from our will to preserve the right of their return to their homeland until the establishment of the viable Palestinian State and that is why Lebanon insists on the content of the Arab initiative which was launched from its Capital Beirut in the year 2002.

The last 3 years were the worst. Weekly clashes in Lebanon’s second biggest city, two assassinations, dozens of rigged cars exploding in a small time frame and a million Syrian refugees stepping into Lebanon with little government control dominated Lebanese politics. But the best part was Marwan Charbel, Sleiman’s minister of interior between 2011-2013. The minister’s probably one of the best, but the fact that every time an explosion happened his answers were either ” I don’t know” or “50% yes, 50% no” showed a clear administrative chaos regarding security issues during Sleiman’s rule.

15. Equip These Troops?

The Armed Forces, and especially the Lebanese Army, have gained the confidence of the Lebanese people during the last years in consequence of achieving great and historic accomplishments starting with the protection of democracy and civil peace and the deployment of the Lebanese Army units in the South after an absence of more than three decades, in addition to confronting the enemy and the terrorist threat, and have subsequently offered many brave men on the altar of the homeland.

Moreover, the recent security incidents gave the impression that the Armed Forces did not assume the complete and required role. In this regard, it is noteworthy that the issue of ensuring the minimum level of agreement and securing the required political cover contribute to ward off such incidents in the future. In addition to this, it is essential to reinforce the morale of the Armed Forces on the national level, to equip these troops and to encourage the educated and promising youth to join the Army.

A plan to equip the Lebanese army with 1.6 billion dollars was implemented during Sleiman’s rule, but 1.6B. dollars, militarily speaking, is nothing. A Saudi-French-Lebanese deal in 2013 to equip the army with a 3 Billion dollars Saudi donation was more about the French and Saudis boosting their relation and increasing their influence in Lebanese politics by funding the Lebanese army (and hence controlling its weapon flow) than arming the LAF for modern warfare.

16. Shoukran Qatar

Gentlemen,

On this occasion, I would like to express my gratitude to the league of Arab Nations and its Secretary General for embracing the crisis which devastated the country and for undertaking productive efforts to elaborate the appropriate solution.

On behalf of the Lebanese people, I would also like to express the deepest feelings of gratitude to the State of Qatar, to His Highness the Prince, to the Prime Minister and to the Arab Ministerial Committee for their sincere efforts and their national commitment in launching and hosting the Lebanese National Dialogue which has succeeded by virtue of their initiative, and was crowned by the Doha agreement.

On this occasion, I would like to express my appreciation to the brother and friendly countries which helped Lebanon overcome the ordeals and to the States which are participating in the UNIFIL deployed in the South to implement resolution 1701, for their distinguished performance in complementarily with the Lebanese Army. We should also point out to the importance attached by this International Force to the development and social aspects in the areas of deployment and to the satisfaction of the citizens.

Even the national dialogue collapsed by the end of Sleiman’s mandate, and the president that came via a consensual deal failed to keep neutral stances, despite the violent repercussions previous biased presidential stances had on Lebanon.

17. Commitments and Freedom Of Speech

Fellow compatriots,

Much work lies ahead; my oath is a commitment I made, just as your will is also a commitment. Let us avoid drowning in promises, let us make an approach to reality and its various fields, within our capabilities, and let us enjoy the support of brothers and friends to overcome the difficulties. Let us be united in solidarity, let us walk along together towards a deep-rooted reconciliation in order to plant the seeds of hope in the hearts of our sons, to launch pioneering, creative and brave initiatives, to establish the foundation of the capable and civil State, based on the respect of public liberties, the freedom of expression and religion. Our national unity has cost us a lot, so let us preserve it together, hand in hand; God is with the community.

The same man that wanted to establish the foundation of the capable and civil State, based on the respect of public liberties and the freedom of  expression ended up suing his critics and throwing angry twitter users in jail. Not a golden age for the Lebanese freedom of speech, that’s for sure. And the very fact that this post wasn’t published before Sleiman left office (the law forbids criticizing the president) while militia leaders travel the country unscathed reveals something more: The president made the wrong men fear him.

To sum up this post, Michel Sleiman’s term can be described as a major disappointment. Bechara El Khoury’s undermining of democracy, Camille Chamoun’s biased moves, Fouad Chehab’s repression and military policies, Charles Helou’s weakness, Sleiman Frangieh’s awful way of managing conflicts, Elias Sarkis’ hesitation, Bachir Gemayel’s illusions de grandeur, Amine Gemayel’s corruption, a number of achievements similar to Rene Mouawad’s 17 days in power, and Elias Hraoui and Emile Lahoud’s dependence on foreign powers. In a unique way, Michel Sleiman combined the bad qualities of all the previous Lebanese presidents, while artificially glueing the state together: even the last cabinet’s official photo was photoshopped.

Even in his legacy, Michel Sleiman would be setting the stage for Lebanon’s least legitimate president since 1943. Due to the postponement of the parliamentary elections, Lebanon’s next president will stay till 2020 and would have been elected by the parliament of June 2009.

Reminder: We still don’t have a president.

[NOTE: THIS POST PREVIOUSLY APPEARED IN TWO SEPARATE ENTRIES ON THE BLOG (PART I, PART II). THIS IS THE FULL POST]

Michel Sleiman, 2008-2014: The Legacy (Part II)

Michel Sleiman

Mr. Speaker, esteemed members of the parliament,

I would have been extremely delighted to begin this mandate with moments of joy; nevertheless, I am confident that our silence will be praised by the souls of our martyrs who are close to God Almighty, since this mandate will be laying the foundations for a new promising phase, for the citizens of our beloved country which is rising from this stumble, thanks to the Lebanese people’s awareness, their refusal to fall the victims of fratricide, and the efforts our loyal friends and brethren have undertaken to mitigate the effects of these unfortunate events and to eliminate their consequences.

Today, by taking the oath, I am calling upon you all, political parties and citizens, to start a new phase which title is Lebanon and the Lebanese people, where we commit ourselves to a national project agreed upon with a futuristic mentality in order to serve the interests of our homeland and prioritize them over our sectarian and confessional interests, and over all the others’ interests.

On the 25th of May 2008, when Michel Sleiman assumed his responsibilities as Lebanon’s new president, he gave an inaugural speech in front of the parliament.  The speech (This is the official English version) includes the president’s plan for the next six years, and the goals he plans on achieving before leaving office on the 25th of May 2014.

This post is a sequel to an entry previously published on the blog. (In part I you’ll find the blog’s comments on the first 8 promises given in the inaugural speech)

In this second part, You’ll find the other half of the speech below, in italics, with comments on what was achieved in order to fulfill the promises of 2008.

9. Diaspora, Tourism, Economy Wel Shabeb

The Lebanese communities in the Diaspora are looking up and hoping to see their homeland rising from underneath the ashes once more and therefore we should acknowledge the rights of the Lebanese immigrants and proceed with the measures which will reinforce their adhesion and interaction with Lebanon. We should also resort to their capacities and engage them in a way that will make them feel as actual citizens and far more worthy of the Lebanese nationality than those who acquired it illegitimately.

Emerging from the state of recession and activating the economic cycle necessitate political and security stability as well as the patronage of the State to encourage the competitive production process. Thereupon, the plans of attracting investments and securing a friendly environment can fight against unemployment and immigration.

This fact also leads to the necessity of attaching great importance to our productive economy in the industrial, agricultural, and services fields and the importance of spreading the environmental culture and emphasizing on this country’s aspects of tourism.

For the president, acknowledging the rights of Lebanese immigrants was of high importance. Since  late 2008 Law gives expatriates the right to vote in the elections. However the elections didn’t happen, and even if they did happen, a failure of the Lebanese Foreign Ministry to raise awareness of the registration process would have made it impossible for Lebanese abroad to vote in the parliamentary elections.

Sleiman also made sure to visit every possible country in the world, in order to strengthen the ties with the Lebanese abroad. The trips – that costed the state 9 million dollars, more than it actually spends on industry, culture, or sports – were useless. One might understand visiting France once or twice like in 2008 and meeting foreign leaders. One might even understand the Cyprus, SyriaQatar, Iran and Saudi Arabia trips. The U.N. New York trips are a must. But Michel Sleiman ‘s trips were too many, and there was always useless leisure time. Armenia. Mexico. Brazil. Russia. Spain. Great Britain. Australia. The Czech Republic. Romania. Uruguay. Argentina. Switzerland. Canada. Italy. Vatican. Egypt. Germany. Jordan. Kuwait. Bahrain. U.A.E. Oman. Turkey. And there’s a lot more (West Africa..). Perhaps the president may do as he wishes, but for millions of times, the cabinet formation was delayed because the president was touring abroad. And that’s only an example of the trips’ repercussions. The whole point of these paragraphs in the inaugural speech was to bring the Lebanese back home and stimulate tourism, not send the president abroad. Although tourism in Lebanon flourished in 2010, tourist traffic at Beirut airport is down at 40% since 2010. Of course, the Syrian Civil war is to blame here, but there were lots of things that could have been done to save the tourism seasons. But instead of enacting reforms reinforcing stability and promoting tourism, politicians opted to travel abroad.

 10. Decentralization

The balanced development is an essential pillar of the country’s unity and the regime’s stability; we consider that the implementation of the wide administrative decentralization constitutes an important factor for this development to achieve the required reform in the field of social, economic and cultural disparity between the Lebanese regions. Furthermore, it is imperative to attach a great importance to the return of the displaced in a way to close this file permanently.

Michel Sleiman had 6 years to pass a decentralization law, and to apply it. He could have taken 1 year to prepare the draft, another to push for it in the parliament, and 4 other years to make sure it’s successfully implemented. But no, the draft law had to be presented to the parliament 1 month before he left office. You know, because one should take his time to implement crucial, long-awaited reforms.

11. STL, People, State and Armies

Gentlemen,

Our abidance by the charters of the United Nations and our observance of its resolutions are due to our firm conviction in the International legitimacy based on the principles of justice and right. Consequently, we would like to confirm our participation in the establishment of the International tribunal with regard to the assassination of the martyr Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and his companions, as well as the assassinations which followed in order to bring justice.

The evolution of the Resistance was a need during the impotence of the state and the persistence of this Resistance was achieved by virtue of the support granted by the Lebanese people, the State, and the Lebanese Army.

The success of the Resistance in the mission of vanquishing the israeli occupier springs from the courage and greatness of its martyrs and yet, the farms of “Shebaa” which are still occupied and the enemy’s persistence in threatening to violate our sovereignty impose upon us to elaborate a defensive strategy that will safeguard the country concomitantly with a calm dialogue to benefit from the capacities of the resistance in order to better serve this strategy. Accordingly, we will manage to avoid depreciating the achievements of the resistance in internal conflicts and subsequently we will safeguard its values and national position. This day coincides with the National Day of liberation and victory and therefore I hope that this occasion prompts us to be more and more conscious of the dangers that are threatening us and to renew our adherence to freedom and democracy to which we have suffered and sacrificed in order to ensure and safeguard our homeland.

The Lebanese president, in his inaugural speech, insisted on the importance of the people, army, resistance formula (The evolution of the Resistance was a need during the impotence of the state and the persistence of this Resistance was achieved by virtue of the support granted by the Lebanese people, the State, and the Lebanese Army). The president also assured his support to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (the Hariri Tribunal). Just as an interesting fact, his last cabinet did not include both statements in the ministerial declaration – showing a clear change of policy between 2008 and 2014, and the defensive strategy that was expected to see light during his rule never did, probably due to the fact that he started taking sides – although it was constitutionally unwise to do so (The constitution clearly says in article 49 that “The President of the Republic is the head of the state and the symbol of the nation’s unity. He shall safeguard the constitution and Lebanon’s independence, unity, and territorial integrity). Apparently countering the Israeli threat meant rewarding the Judge that let go some of the Israeli spies with ministerial positions. Who knew.

12. …For The Homeland Embraces All Of Its Sons

In this context we should dedicate ourselves wholeheartedly to the mission of freeing the prisoners and the detainees as well as revealing the destiny of the missing persons in addition to recovering our sons who sought refuge in Israel, for the homeland embraces all of its sons.

There has been no progress in freeing the detainees in Syrian prisons, and a law passed  in 2011 still assured punishment for the former members of the Southern Lebanese Army (although it did allow their families to come home without being arrested).

13. Fraternity

Lebanon has and will always persist in strengthening the relations with the Arab brethren and thus we are looking forward to achieve a relation of fraternity between Lebanon and Syria in the framework of mutual respect to the sovereignty and the border of both states, and diplomatic relations which will serve the interests of the two countries.
What is most important in this concern resides in the perfect implementation of the equal relations which will be lacking all past flaws, and accordingly we will benefit from the past experiences to avoid any upcoming problems and to ensure the interests, the prosperity and the security of the two brother countries.

Syrian-Lebanese mutual respect became so intimate that by the end of 2013, most of the Lebanese were either pro-Syrian opposition or pro-Syrian regime. In other words, the whole republic suddenly became pro-Syrian during Michel Sleiman’s rule.  Lebanon became so Syrian that rival Lebanese parties decided to go into Syria and help their brothers in the faith. Welcome to the Semi-Autonomous Lebanese Republic of Syria, I guess. And the way to counter this was playing the March 8 and 14 alliances one against the other and destabilizing the country even more. In this regard the Baabda declaration was rather a good decision, although its application turned out to be a nightmare.

14. 50% Yes, 50% No

Fellow compatriots,

The State can not disregard any security violation and shall never allow in any case using a certain party as a source to reinforce terrorism or to advance the Palestinian cause as a pretense to purchase weapons, the thing that might destabilize the country. This type of incidents occurred last year when the Lebanese Army was attacked.

Let us work all together to deal with the repercussions of these incidents by remedying the wounds and reconstructing what has been destroyed. Pains are overwhelming but let us cling to hope. The weapons should always be pointed at the enemy and we will not allow any side to point them elsewhere.  Our firm rejection of the settlement does not mean that we object to host our brother Palestinians and to take care of their humanitarian rights, this rejection stems from our will to preserve the right of their return to their homeland until the establishment of the viable Palestinian State and that is why Lebanon insists on the content of the Arab initiative which was launched from its Capital Beirut in the year 2002.

The last 3 years were the worst. Weekly clashes in Lebanon’s second biggest city, two assassinations, dozens of rigged cars exploding in a small time frame and a million Syrian refugees stepping into Lebanon with little government control dominated Lebanese politics. But the best part was Marwan Charbel, Sleiman’s minister of interior between 2011-2013. The minister’s probably one of the best, but the fact that every time an explosion happened his answers were either ” I don’t know” or “50% yes, 50% no” showed a clear administrative chaos regarding security issues during Sleiman’s rule.

15. Equip These Troops?

The Armed Forces, and especially the Lebanese Army, have gained the confidence of the Lebanese people during the last years in consequence of achieving great and historic accomplishments starting with the protection of democracy and civil peace and the deployment of the Lebanese Army units in the South after an absence of more than three decades, in addition to confronting the enemy and the terrorist threat, and have subsequently offered many brave men on the altar of the homeland.

Moreover, the recent security incidents gave the impression that the Armed Forces did not assume the complete and required role. In this regard, it is noteworthy that the issue of ensuring the minimum level of agreement and securing the required political cover contribute to ward off such incidents in the future. In addition to this, it is essential to reinforce the morale of the Armed Forces on the national level, to equip these troops and to encourage the educated and promising youth to join the Army.

A plan to equip the Lebanese army with 1.6 billion dollars was implemented during Sleiman’s rule, but 1.6B. dollars, militarily speaking, is nothing. A Saudi-French-Lebanese deal in 2013 to equip the army with a 3 Billion dollars Saudi donation was more about the French and Saudis boosting their relation and increasing their influence in Lebanese politics by funding the Lebanese army (and hence controlling its weapon flow) than arming the LAF for modern warfare.

16. Shoukran Qatar

Gentlemen,

On this occasion, I would like to express my gratitude to the league of Arab Nations and its Secretary General for embracing the crisis which devastated the country and for undertaking productive efforts to elaborate the appropriate solution.

On behalf of the Lebanese people, I would also like to express the deepest feelings of gratitude to the State of Qatar, to His Highness the Prince, to the Prime Minister and to the Arab Ministerial Committee for their sincere efforts and their national commitment in launching and hosting the Lebanese National Dialogue which has succeeded by virtue of their initiative, and was crowned by the Doha agreement.

On this occasion, I would like to express my appreciation to the brother and friendly countries which helped Lebanon overcome the ordeals and to the States which are participating in the UNIFIL deployed in the South to implement resolution 1701, for their distinguished performance in complementarily with the Lebanese Army. We should also point out to the importance attached by this International Force to the development and social aspects in the areas of deployment and to the satisfaction of the citizens.

Even the national dialogue collapsed by the end of Sleiman’s mandate, and the president that came via a consensual deal failed to keep neutral stances, despite the violent repercussions previous biased presidential stances had on Lebanon.

17. Commitments and Freedom Of Speech

Fellow compatriots,

Much work lies ahead; my oath is a commitment I made, just as your will is also a commitment. Let us avoid drowning in promises, let us make an approach to reality and its various fields, within our capabilities, and let us enjoy the support of brothers and friends to overcome the difficulties. Let us be united in solidarity, let us walk along together towards a deep-rooted reconciliation in order to plant the seeds of hope in the hearts of our sons, to launch pioneering, creative and brave initiatives, to establish the foundation of the capable and civil State, based on the respect of public liberties, the freedom of expression and religion. Our national unity has cost us a lot, so let us preserve it together, hand in hand; God is with the community.

The same man that wanted to establish the foundation of the capable and civil State, based on the respect of public liberties and the freedom of  expression ended up suing his critics and throwing angry twitter users in jail. Not a golden age for the Lebanese freedom of speech, that’s for sure. And the very fact that this post wasn’t published before Sleiman left office (the law forbids criticizing the president) while militia leaders travel the country unscathed reveals something more: The president made the wrong men fear him.

To sum up this post, Michel Sleiman’s term can be described as a major disappointment. Bechara El Khoury’s undermining of democracy, Camille Chamoun’s biased moves, Fouad Chehab’s repression and military policies, Charles Helou’s weakness, Sleiman Frangieh’s awful way of managing conflicts, Elias Sarkis’ hesitation, Bachir Gemayel’s illusions de grandeur, Amine Gemayel’s corruption, a number of achievements similar to Rene Mouawad’s 17 days in power, and Elias Hraoui and Emile Lahoud’s dependence on foreign powers. In a unique way, Michel Sleiman combined the bad qualities of all the previous Lebanese presidents, while artificially glueing the state together: even the last cabinet’s official photo was photoshopped.

Even in his legacy, Michel Sleiman would be setting the stage for Lebanon’s least legitimate president since 1943. Due to the postponement of the parliamentary elections, Lebanon’s next president will stay till 2020 and would have been elected by the parliament of June 2009.

Reminder: We still don’t have a president.

Michel Sleiman, 2008-2014: The Legacy (Part I)

Michel Sleiman

Mr. Speaker, esteemed members of the parliament,

I would have been extremely delighted to begin this mandate with moments of joy; nevertheless, I am confident that our silence will be praised by the souls of our martyrs who are close to God Almighty, since this mandate will be laying the foundations for a new promising phase, for the citizens of our beloved country which is rising from this stumble, thanks to the Lebanese people’s awareness, their refusal to fall the victims of fratricide, and the efforts our loyal friends and brethren have undertaken to mitigate the effects of these unfortunate events and to eliminate their consequences.

Today, by taking the oath, I am calling upon you all, political parties and citizens, to start a new phase which title is Lebanon and the Lebanese people, where we commit ourselves to a national project agreed upon with a futuristic mentality in order to serve the interests of our homeland and prioritize them over our sectarian and confessional interests, and over all the others’ interests.

On the 25th of May 2008, when Michel Sleiman assumed his responsibilities as Lebanon’s new president, he gave an inaugural speech in front of the parliament.  The speech (This is the official English version) includes the president’s plan for the next six years, and the goals he plans on achieving before leaving office on the 25th of May 2014.

Today, the 25th of May 2014, is judgment day. You’ll find the whole speech below, in italics, with comments on what was achieved in order to fulfill the promises of 2008. Since the blog post was very big, I’ve decided to split it in two.

1. Activating the role of constitutional institutions

The desired political stability makes incumbent upon us to activate the role of the constitutional institutions where the political ideas and dissimilarities will be dealt with, in order to reach common denominators which secure the interests of the homeland and the people.

The political disagreement and the resulting constitutional problematic we have encountered should motivate us, not only to find the solutions to the problems that we might face in the future, but also to achieve the proper balance required between the competences and responsibilities in a way to enable the institutions and the Presidency of the Republic included to assume the role they are entrusted with.

Between the 25th Of May 2008 and the 25th of May 2014, the Lebanese president had 2191 days to rule. His first cabinet (Siniora) took a total of 79 days (25 May 2008 – 12 August 2008) to be formed and receive the vote of confidence. The second cabinet (Hariri) took a total of 187 days (7 June 2009 – election day, 10 December 2009) to be formed and receive the vote of confidence. The third cabinet (Mikati) took a total of 177 days (12 January 2011 – resignation of the M8 ministers, 7 July 2011) to be formed and receive the vote of confidence. The fourth cabinet (Salam) took a total of 364 days (22 March 2013 – Mikati’s resignation, 20 March 2014) to be formed and receive the vote of confidence. 79+187+177+364=807 days. 807/2191= 36%.

So to sum things up, 36% of Michel Sleiman’s time in power lacked a functioning executive power. Needless to say that the Lebanese parliament cannot legislate with no government in power, and cannot meet in summer, which means that during Sleiman’s 6 years, the parliament had a  maximum of 3 years to pass laws and amendments (around 50% of the time).

In his inaugural speech, Sleiman spoke of two things regarding the deadlock: 1) Activating the role of constitutional institutions, and 2) Finding solutions to the time-consuming deadlocks. Never in its whole history has Lebanon seen such time-consuming government formations. Tammam Salam and Najib Mikati both broke Rachid Karami’s 1969 record (7 months) in 2014 when they became the new record holders for tardiness in forming cabinet and acting as caretaker PM. The Lebanese parliament had been previously shut down by Berri for 17 Months (2007-2008) during the rule of the first Siniora cabinet, but relatively speaking, the parliament only stopped legislating at the very end of Lahoud’s mandate. The paralysis in the legislative branch was by far more pronounced during Sleiman’s tenure. The low productivity of the parliament is frightening: between June 2009 and March 2013, the parliament convened 21 times only, and voted laws 13 times out of 21. (The numbers are from the official parliamentary gazette, Al Hayat Al Niyabiya). Only 183 laws were voted (a very low number), and the vast majority of these laws are either useless or minor. And if you think that productivity increased after 2013, don’t. The parliament actually didn’t even meet to legislate for more than a year after the last session of 2013. Aslan min elo jlede.

And how was the president concerned with the demise of the constitutional institutions? The president has failed twice here. True, the president has little or no power concerning Lebanese politics. But he – unlike the popular hearsay- still has a lot of powers that he is not using. (1) The president had the power – according to article 33 of the constitution –  to “summon the Chamber to extraordinary sessions by a decree that specifies the dates of the opening and closing of the extraordinary sessions as well as the agenda.” In other words, the Lebanese president could have forced the parliament to meet in Summer – hence compensating  for wasted time. The deputies would’ve probably stayed home, but at least the president would have managed to expose them as lazy greedy elected officials. (2) The president could have pushed for a constitutional amendment setting a maximum of 60 days for a designated prime minister to form a cabinet. The Lebanese president is also one of the two individuals concerned with forming the government. Instead of wasting hundreds of days to form them, the president could have easily issued a deadline for the politicians to agree. Such maneuvers would have accelerated the process of policy making while making it easier. But no, it had to be 807 days.

2. Reform? What reform?

Lebanon, the country of mission, crossroad of civilizations and haven of pluralism, prompts us all to endeavor and engage ourselves in political, administrative, economic and security reforms. This will enable us to restore our country’s exemplary role on the international scene.
Lebanon has chosen to conform to the “Taef” agreement, and it is called to safeguard and consolidate this choice because it stems from a united national will, which is imperative to immunize any political decision.

Between 2008 and 2014, the country was supposed to witness political, administrative, economic and security reforms. Politically speaking, only one main reform was worked upon to achieve: the electoral law of 2008. However, this law plummeted in an exceptional way and was regarded as an epic failure by all the politicians – to the extent that elections were postponed in order to avoid it in 2013, and since the 2008 electoral law lacked most of the recommendations for reform suggested by the Boutros Commission  (such as official pre-printed ballots, partial proportional representation, a 30% women’s quota, an independent electoral commission, lowering the voting age from 21 to 18, out of country voting, access for people with special needs – only holding the election on one day and campaign finance and media regulations were taken into consideration) the 2008 electoral law can barely be considered as political reform. Even the new electoral proposed in 2012 was a very biased one.

Economically speaking, the country’s economy is today in one of its worst days. The 4 Lebanese cabinets under Michel Sleiman did not even make the effort to appoint a new general assembly for the economic and social council, whose mandate had expired in December 2002. On another more depressing and alarming note, the Lebanese parliament failed to pass the state’s budget since 2005, officially making Michel Sleiman the first president in the history of the republic to rule without an up-to-date budget. Again, the Lebanese president should not be judged for the failure of the parliament, but pressure from the president – like refusing to sign decrees and laws that are crucial for the well-being of Lebanon’s politicians before the parliament had passed a new budget – would have been a welcomed gesture. After all, the public debt has never been so high, public strikes – revealing popular discontent from the situation – have never been so frequent while the main economic reform championed by the parliament was a law destined to give a pay raise for the MPs. Further, another example of Michel Sleiman’s bad economic policies also appeared at the very  end of his mandate, when he didn’t sign the new rent law (approved by parliament) that provided a breakthrough regarding the stalemate between landlords and old tenants after more than three decades of deliberation.

3. National pacts

Furthermore, it is the national pact which is analogous to the constitution that joins the Lebanese together based on their own will. It proved to be stronger and far more sublime than any other external will.

Our external relations will be most effective and adequate if they were based on this pact, and thus the interests of Lebanon will be safeguarded and its particularity will be respected; this will enable our country to regain its effective role in the Arab world and the International Community as the living example of the coexistence between the cultures.

The national pact isn’t only about power sharing between Lebanon’s sects. What matters the most in this unwritten accord is the oath Lebanon’s main politicians took to abstain from inviting foreign intervention. While the pact is mostly viewed as a Muslim-Christian deal to split the country’s top posts,  it’s far more than that. Christians gave up French protection while Muslims gave up Pan Arab Union aspirations. The biggest irony in Michel Sleiman’s inaugural speech is that he was publicly praising the national pact  – a symbol of rejecting foreign interference – after being elected due to a Qatari mediated deal in Doha between France, U.S., Syria, and Iran. Even the constitution Michel Sleiman was taking an oath to protect actually carried the name of a Saudi city were it was written, 19 years earlier: Taef. The same regional players would also massively intervene in Lebanese politics during the next 6 years. The formation of governments did not happen without regional consensus and in the 2009 elections parties were massively funded by foreign states. No measure was taken between 2008 and 2012 to reduce foreign influence in Lebanese politics which finally resulted in the 2013 Syrian spillover.

4. Dialogue

Esteemed members of the parliament,

The people have placed their confidence in us to accomplish their ambitions, and not to confuse them with our political differences.

Probably the most dangerous threat which rose in the last years manifested itself in a political speech based on a treason language and mutual accusations, which paved the way to a state of divergence and discord especially among youth. This is the reason why it is essential to realize this fact, to work on fortifying our country and our coexistence through dialogue and to avoid transforming the country into an open arena for conflicts.

Although Sleiman was elected in a consensual deal, and although his 6 years in power were expected to be years of stability – Lebanon witnessed a revolution in 2005, an Israeli war in 2006, a political crisis in 2007 and a mini civil-war in 2008 – this stability was far from true. The problems appeared again with Syria’s civil war spillover in Lebanon since 2012, along with the 2 cabinet crisis of 2011 and 2013 and the comeback of assassinations, explosions and regular clashes. Lebanon was far from being on the path of stability.

5. Rotation of what again?

The main characteristic of democracy resides in the rotation of power through free elections. It is certainly essential to adopt an electoral law which ensures the sound representation, consolidates the relation between the citizens and their representatives, and guarantees the mirroring of the choices and ambitions of the people, however, it is also important to accept the results of these elections and to respect the popular will.

Furthermore, the independence of the judicial authority consolidates justice which constitutes a safe haven to all people whose rights are violated, and secures a public order to all the public utilities. Hence, the effects of this independence will not be restricted to judgments rendering, since justice is safe hands, it is the pillar of all powers.

The main characteristic of democracy resides in the rotation of power through free elections. Furthermore, the independence of the judicial authority consolidates justice and secures a public order to all the public utilities.” The fun part? Exactly 5 years later, the Lebanese parliament decided that there was no need for free elections and rotation of power was too mainstream for a country such as Lebanon. The Lebanese president tried to stop the parliament by calling on Lebanon’s most prestigious judicial authority – the constitutional council – to convene and study the constitutionality of the 17-months extension. However, and since five of council judges are voted by the parliament and the other five are designated by the cabinet – because, as the president said, independence of  the judicial authority secures a public order to all the public utilities – the politically dependent council refused to convene and the extension of the parliament’s mandate became a de-facto decision to deal with.

The Lebanese president did what was expected of him, but there was more he could have done. The parliament voted the law extending its mandate on the 31st of May 2013. Elections were due in June. According to the Lebanese constitution, article 59 “The President of the Republic may adjourn the Chamber for a period not exceeding one month. He may not do so twice during the same session.” If the president had used this power the constitution gave him, the parliament wouldn’t have convened to vote the extension law, and the June elections would have happened anyway. Even if the parliament did manage to pass the law somehow, the president still could have refused to sign it and publish it into the official gazette for a certain period of time. And even if the president was eventually entitled by the constitution to sign it, he could have considered it unconstitutional – since the constitutional council was too coward to discuss it and since the constitution names the president as the “protector of the constitution” – which means that there was no possible way for the parliament’s extension law to pass if the president wanted to block it. Perhaps the president thought that an extension of the parliament’s mandate also meant an extension to his mandate or making his weak power look as surpassing a weaker parliament… Anyway, three things to remember from all this: no justice, no elections, no democracy. And with generals assuming more and more political responsibilities, Lebanon was starting to look like a military state. Perhaps the president should be admired for his decision to refuse any extension of his mandate – his two predecessors stayed 9 years in office – but then again, it was his constitutional duty to leave after 6 years.

The president’s idea of justice was also the appointment of Ashraf Rifi as justice minister – He was ironically being sued by the Lebanese government for refusing to abide to his superior’s orders.

6. “You are asking questions I am not really aware of, about details that are not really important.” (Gebran Bassil)

Moreover, national responsibility imposes upon us to encourage the youth generation capacities to accede to the public sector institutions in a way to prevent its decline and enables us to establish a younger and more competent administration. This responsibility also makes it inevitable to rely on the good choices and decisions, to consolidate the surveillance organisms and thus to reward the meritorious, set right the negligent, and remove the corrupted from office.

Michel Sleiman’s idea of removing the corrupted from office was accepting the appointment of  controversial figures in top posts. Fouad Siniora headed his first cabinet in 2008, and Gebran Bassil – infamous for answering the question of what happened with 34 Million dollars of public money with “You are asking questions I am not really aware of, about details that are not really important  remained a minister in all four cabinets. And that’s only the beginning of a long (very long) list of names. True, the ministers probably never represented Sleiman in the government, but he still had the upper hand in the cabinet formation, and vetoing the names of controversial politicians or even freezing the formation because of their nomination would have sent a big message. By the end of his term even the president himself was accused with several corruption scandals.

7. “The youth generation is our promising future

Gentlemen,

We will achieve the objective of dissipating the suspicions of the youth by building a country they will be proud to belong to; a country to rise by their capacities, expertise and participation in finding the solutions. Let us all allow them to guide us where we have failed, on the grounds that the youth generation resisted the occupation and terrorism and fought for the independence. The youth generation is our promising future, the wounds thickened them but made them stronger and some of them became handicapped and thus their rights should be guaranteed according to the laws and regulations.

The idea of encouraging the youth to accede to the public sector eventually ended up in the failure to pass a constitutional amendment giving the right to vote to Lebanese citizens between 18 and 21 and a Lebanese average age in the cabinet of…60 years old. Apparently 60 years and Sheikh El Chabeb are the same thing.

8. “Reformative educational policy in our schools

It is noteworthy to bear in mind the importance of a reformative educational policy in our schools and universities, a policy which will restore their significant role in this region.

Just to make things clear here, in 2008, the Lebanese history school books stopped in 1946 because there is no consensus on what happened next.  In 2014, the Lebanese history school books still stop in 1946 because there is no consensus on what happened next. But yeah, it is noteworthy to bear in mind the importance of a reformative educational policy in our schools. El mhemm el niyye.

Part II for tomorrow.

[Update: Link for Part II]

A Closer Look At Lebanon’s New Policy Statement

Rebels loyal to Saeb Salam in the Basta section of Beirut - July 1958  (Hank Walker for LIFE Magazine)

Rebels loyal to Saeb Salam in the Basta section of Beirut – July 1958 (Hank Walker for LIFE Magazine)

You can find the full text in the bottom of the post (Arabic)

Although I’ve previously written two posts on Lebanon’s policy statement, I didn’t discuss it. The first one explains why it matters, the second why it doesn’t. Apparently, as a Lebanese political blogger, there’s some kind of moral obligation to review the cabinet’s policy statement, so here’s my comments.

Lebanese Citizens

Since Lebanese care about weapons more than they care about their own lives, and since this was the main issue postponing the governmental formation, I’m going to start with everything related to security. There’s two ways to look at this policy statement. It speaks of the state’s authority (Hooray, M14) while at the same time mentioning the right of any Lebanese to resist the occupation (Hooray, M8). However it’s not any Lebanese. The policy statement gives the resisting Lebanese the adjective of “citizen”. M8 and M14 both won by finding a compromise: The resistance and the state are still two separate groups although the resisting individuals (Hezbollah, in other words) are now regarded by the state to be Lebanese citizens, and are thus – in a way or another – citizens of the state and subject to its cabinet’s decisions. While the previous policy statement clearly separates the resistance from the state in the famous “People, Army, Resistance” formula, the current one doesn’t clearly mention the resistance and at the same connects and separates the two entities (Resistance/State). Compromise, huh?

Now time for the criticism. Even though the policy statement implies that the “resisting Hezbollah” men are citizens, it mentions something else very dangerous. Starting this week, any Lebanese citizen has a de facto right to resist Israel, and hence has an alibi to arm himself.  Things in Syria don’t look so good, and the recent fall of Yabroud brought tensions to an unprecedented level in the Bekaa. While Syrian refugees are not allowed to carry weapons (There’s the eliminating factor of being a Lebanese citizen in the policy statement), and while the state has committed itself to fight terrorism in the ministerial declaration, we all know that the situation can severely deteriorate at any moment. Giving all the Lebanese the right to arm themselves isn’t helping here.

What’s Missing?

Read the policy statement, and read it again. There is no sign of anything regarding the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. There’s also no sign of the Baabda Declaration. Instead of mentioning problematic issues, they were skipped and virtually mentioned by a sentence endorsing the previous decisions of the dialogue committees. In a way, the cabinet is skipping all the controversial issues when it’s possible. When it’s not possible, complex sentences that can be explained in 1532164 ways are the solution (check the previous paragraph).

What’s Not Supposed To Be There?

If you read the ministerial statement, you literally feel that Lebanon is going to war. The first paragraphs stress on the need to unite in these harsh moments. And when it’s not about fighting terrorism, arming the army, preserving stability, it’s about dealing with the refugees. No specific fiscal plan is mentioned, and the policy statement promises to support the economy in a very concise number of words. However, there is something in the policy statement that a 2 months-cabinet shouldn’t be even thinking of: A decentralization law. In two months, we’re supposed to change presidents. When you look at the achievements of the current president, you search and search and find nothing. Absolutely nothing. Lebanon even lost the basic democratic principle of elections during his rule. So what’s the decentralization law doing here? Michel Sleiman wants to make sure before he leaves that there was at least one big project that bears his name and his signature. What fits the criteria better than the decentralization law?

An exiting president, unity cabinet, parties boycotting its, calls for decentralization, terrorism, self-defense, refugees, and a regional spillover. In a way, Tammam Salam’s cabinet looks a lot like Karami’s 1975 cabinet.

68 days till the 25th of May.

I’ll be off the blog for the next few weeks. Anyway, here’s the full text of the policy statement:

البيان الوزاري لحكومة تمام سلام

دولة الرئيس، حضرة النواب الكرام،

رغم الظروف الاستثنائية التي طبعتها الهواجس الأمنية والهموم المعيشية، ورغم الضغوط المحلية والإقليمية القاسية كان لا بد للمصلحة الوطنية أن تسود. وها هي المصلحة الوطنية في شكل حكومة توافقية تتقدم من مجلسكم الكريم، آملة بنيل ثقته بعدما نالت ثقة القوى السياسية المشاركة فيه. وهي الحكومة التي رأى فيها اللبنانيـون بارقة أمل لتحسين أحوالهم وتعزيز أمنهم وأمانهم ومناعتهم الوطنية.

أبصرت الحكومة النور لتمهّد للاستحقاقات الكبرى وتواكبها. إنها لا تدّعي قدرة على تحقيق كل ما يطمح إليه المواطنون في الفترة القصيرة المتاحة لها، ولن نعد إلا بما هو منطقي وممكن ومُتاح وبما يحتل الأولوية القصوى في سلم الاهتمامات وفي مقدمة هذه الأولويات بلا منازع موضوع الأمن والاستقرار.

لذا فإن حكومتنا، تطمح لأن تشكل شبكة أمان سياسية من أجل تحصين البلاد أمنياً وسدّ الثغرات التي ينفذ منها أصحاب المخططات السوداء لزرع بذور الفتنة وضرب الاستقرار.

ان حكومتنا تشدد على وحدة الدولة وسلطتها ومرجعيتها الحصرية في كل القضايا المتصلة بالسياسة العامة للبلاد، بما يضمن الحفاظ على لبنان وحمايته وصون سيادته الوطنية كما تشدد الحكومة على التزامها مبادئ الدستور وأحكامه وقواعد النظام الديموقراطي والميثاق الوطني وتطبيق الطائف.

إن حكومتنا تولي أهمية استثنائية لمواجهة الأعمال الإرهابية بمختلف أشكالها واستهدافاتها بكل الوسائل المتاحة للدولة، وهي ستتابع تعزيز قدرات الجيش والقوى الأمنية لتمكينها من القيام بهذا الواجب، إضافة لواجباتها في حماية الحدود وضبطها وتثبيت الأمن. وفي هذا المجال، نؤكد اننا سوف نسرّع عملية تسليح الجيش وتجهيزه من خلال مختلف مصادر التمويل، وعلى وجه الخصوص بفضل المساعدة السعودية الكريمة بقيمة ثلاثة مليارات دولار.

دولة الرئيس، حضرة النواب

إننا نعتبر أن أهم التحديات الملحة أمام حكومتنا، هو خلق الأجواء اللازمة لإجراء الانتخابات الرئاسية في موعدها، احتراماً للدستور وتطبيقاً لمبدأ تداول السلطة الذي تقتضيه طبيعة نظامنا الديموقراطي.

كذلك، فإن الحكومة تتعهد السعي إلى إقرار قانون جديد للانتخابات النيابية، كما انها ستعمل على إنجاز مشروع قانون اللامركزية الإدارية وإحالته إلى المجلس النيابي لإقراره.

إن هذه الحكومة، بطبيعتها الجامعة وبأدائها، سوف تعمل على تأمين مناخات إيجابية للحوار الوطني الذي يدعو إليه ويرعاه فخامة رئيس الجمهورية، ولاستئناف النقاش حول الإستراتيجية الدفاعية الوطنية. كما ستعمل الحكومة على متابعة وتنفيذ مقررات جلسات الحوار السابقة.

ستسعى حكومتنا إلى التأكيد على مبدأ الحوار والتمسك بالسلم الأهلي وعدم اللجوء إلى العنف والسلاح والابتعاد عن التحريض الطائفي والمذهبي والحؤول دون الانزلاق بالبلاد إلى الفتنة بما يحقق الوحدة الوطنية ويعزز المنعة الداخلية في مواجهة الأخطار وذلك احتراماً ومتابعة لقرارات الحوار الوطني الصادرة عن طاولة الحوار في مجلس النواب وعن هيئة الحوار الوطني في القصر الجمهوري في بعبدا.

إن الصدى الطيب الذي تركه تشكيل هذه الحكومة انعكس إيجاباً على المناخ العام في البلاد. ونحن نأمل ان تكون هذه الأجواء، التي لمسنا نتائجها في أسواق المال، مدخلاً إلى مرحلة جديدة تشهد انتعاشاً للدورة الاقتصادية الوطنية بما ينعكس خيراً على المستوى المعيشي للمواطنين.

إن الحكومة تدرك مشاكل المالية العامة للدولة، وهي ستعمل على معالجتها وستتخذ كل الإجراءات الممكنة لتحريك القطاعات الاقتصادية الرئيسية وفي مقدمها قطاع السياحة الذي يعاني تدهوراً كبيراً، وسنتصدى بموازاة ذلك لمعالجة المسألة المعيشية بالحوار مع أرباب العمل والنقابات العمالية ومن ضمن الإمكانات المتاحة، وستواكب مشروعي قانون سلسلة الرتب والرواتب وقانون التقاعد والحماية الاجتماعية (ضمان الشيخوخة) الموجودين في مجلس النواب.

إن حكومة المصلحة الوطنية ستولي عناية خاصة لملف الطاقة، وتتعهد بالاستمرار والإسراع في الإجراءات المتعلقة بدورة التراخيص للتنقيب عن النفط واستخراجه، وهي تؤكد التمسك الكامل بحق لبنان في مياهه وثروته من النفط والغاز وتتعهد بتسريع الإجراءات اللازمة لتثبيت حدوده البحرية، خصوصاً في المناطق المتنازع عليها مع العدو الإسرائيلي.

إن ورشة العمل هذه تستوجب بالضرورة ضخ الحيوية في إدارات الدولة عبر ملء الشواغر الكثيرة في ملاكاتها. وهذا ما ستسعى الحكومة القيام به بشكل حثيث.

وفي جريمة إخفاء الإمام موسى الصدر وأخويه في ليبيا ستضاعف الحكومة جهودها على كل المستويات والصعد، ستدعم اللجنة الرسمية للمتابعة بهدف تحريرهم وعودتهم سالمين.

دولة الرئيس، حضرة النواب،

تطويراً للإجراءات المعتمدة ستعمل الحكومة على وضع آليات واضحة للتعاطي مع ملف النازحين السوريين الذين تجاوز عددهم قدرة لبنان على التحمل لانعكاساته على الأوضاع الأمنية والسياسية والاجتماعية والاقتصادية بما يسمح بمعالجة وجودهم المؤقت ونتائجه على مختلف الصعد وتحميل المجتمعَين العربي والدولي مسؤولياتهما بهذا الأمر ليتسنى للبنان القيام بواجباته الأخلاقية والإنسانية وبما يسهل عودتهم في الوقت عينه إلى ديارهم.

إن حكومتنا ستلاحق تنفيذ خلاصات مجموعة الدعم للبنان المقررة بتاريخ 25 أيلول 2013 التي تبناها مجلس الأمن لاحقاً وستواكب الاجتماعات المرتبطة بها في فرنسا وايطاليا وغيرها. وفي هذا الإطار ستقوم الحكومة بإقرار المشاريع والبرامج الهادفة للحد من الآثار الاقتصادية والاجتماعية الناتجة عن الأزمة السورية وآلية تمويلها عن طريق الهبات المودعة في الصندوق الائتماني الذي أطلقه البنك الدولي، على ان يتم ذلك وفقاًَ لأحكام الدستور والقوانين المرعية الإجراء.

دولة الرئيس، النواب الكرام،

إن حكومتنا حريصة على تعزيز العلاقات مع الدول الشقيقة والصديقة والتعاون معها والتأكيد على الشراكة مع الاتحاد الأوروبي في إطار الاحترام المتبادل للسيادة الوطنية. كما انها ستسعى إلى إقامة أفضل الصلات مع هيئات الشرعية الدولية واحترام قراراتها والالتزام بتنفيذ قرار مجلس الأمن الرقم 1701، للمساعدة على بسط السيادة اللبنانية على كامل أراضي البلاد، والتزام مواثيق الأمم المتحدة، وجامعة الدول العربية.

واستنادا إلى مسؤولية الدولة ودورها في المحافظة على سيادة لبنان واستقلاله ووحدته وسلامة أبنائه، تؤكد الحكومة على واجب الدولة وسعيها لتحرير مزارع شبعا وتلال كفرشوبا والجزء اللبناني من قرية الغجر، وذلك بشتى الوسائل المشروعة. مع التاكيد على الحق للمواطنين اللبنانيين في المقاومة للاحتلال الإسرائيلي ورد اعتداءاته واسترجاع الأراضي المحتلة.

دولة الرئيس، النواب الكرام

تقتضي الحكمة، في هذه الأوقات العصيبة التي تمر بها منطقتنا، أن نسعى إلى تقليل خسائرنا قدر المستطاع، فنلتزم سياسة النأي بالنفس ونحصن بلدنا بأفضل الطرق تجاه تداعيات الأزمات المجاورة ولا نعرّض سلمه الأهلي وأمانه ولقمة عيش أبنائه للخطر.

هذه هي «المصلحة الوطنية» كما نفهمها. وعلى هذا الأساس نتقدم من مجلسكم الكريم طالبين الثقة.

وشكراً.