The binding consultations

Tomorrow for the first time in post-Taef Lebanon, the binding consultations to choose a new Prime minister will start with no clear candidate. The Members of Parliament will meet the president, according to a pre-set schedule, individually or as part of their parliamentary blocs, and they will nominate their candidate for Prime Minister-designate. Usually, such a step is not taken unless a clear candidate has been chosen. It is clear that French President Macron’s visit has pushed the different Lebanese political players to start the process to elect a Prime Minister and form a new government, without the usual political consensus.

According to article 53 of the Lebanese constitution[1], the President has to nominate the candidate with the most votes as Prime Minister-designate, based on the binding consultations. Thus, there are no minimum votes to get. In theory, the Prime Minister-designate can be nominated with very few votes, even less than half, as long as he receives more than the other contenders. In practice, if the Prime Minister-designate does not receive a majority, his chances of forming a new government that will win the vote of confidence will be very slim! Moreover, the PM-designate will also have to get the accord of the President and his signature on the new government’s formation decree. (for more information on this process you can check the previous article). Therefore, the PM-designate and the President’s approval are required to nominate a new government, in addition to the support of a majority of political parties, and of the main regional and international powers.

Tomorrow is going to be a very interesting day! I will leave you with these parting notes:

[In the last few hours since this article was written, PM Hariri and the former PMs -Mikati, Sinioura, and Salam- have nominated Lebanon’s Ambassador to Germany Mr. Mustapha Adib as their candidate, and the rest of the political parties have followed in the same direction.] 

First, former PM Hariri’s Future Movement will be the first to nominate a candidate, and basically whoever he names will have the most chances to win the nomination, as both Hezbollah and Amal have indicated their willingness to support any non-contentious Future Movement candidate. Moreover, PM Hariri has expressed his intention of not returning as PM, thus his party will not name him. However, PM Hariri might choose to abstain, refusing to name anyone, like what happened during the nomination of care-taker PM Hassan Diab last December.

Second, the schedule of the consultation will start at 9:00 am with a meeting with the former Prime Ministers, then it will be the turn of Future Movement, followed by Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc, and then after a few smaller groups, it will be Mr. Jumblatt’s and Lebanese Forces’ turn, followed later by the Gebran Bassil’s FPM, and finally ending with Speaker Berri’s group. The order is important because once Hariri and Hezbollah’s have voted the rest of the blocks would have a clearer view of which side they want to support. The day will end at 13:30 pm with Speaker Berri’s meeting with President Aoun, after which the name of the new Prime Minister will be announced. But by the time Future Movement and Hezbollah’s meeting have ended around 10:40 am, most media pundits would announce the probable winner, barring any surprises.  

Third, after the resignation of 8 MPs following the August 4 devastating explosion, there are only 120 members left in the Lebanese Parliament, thus the majority (for the vote of confidence and other calculations) is 61, and not 65 as previously! for more on the circumstance of these resignations and their possible effect on the parliament you can check this article

Fourth, throughout the formation process, and until the vote of confidence (a period that could probably last for a few weeks at the least, and usually for several months) care-taker Prime Minister Hassan Diab and his government are still considered the empowered executive, but severely limited prerogatives.

Finally, in these difficult times, one can only hope that this step will help accelerate the long process of solving the myriad crisises affecting Lebanon. 

[1] Article 53 part 2

The President of the Republic shall designate the Prime Minister in consultation with the President of the Chamber of Deputies based on binding parliamentary consultations, the content of which he shall formally disclose to the latter.

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