As is becoming increasingly common, breaking the constitution is another way for forging the easy way out of facing our country’s problems. Lebanese Army Commander Michel Suleiman presented himself, upon the recommendation of former Defense Minister Albert Mansour, as a candidate to head a transitional government should Parliament fail to elect a new president.
I have serious contentions to such a move:
1. On a psychoanalytical level, Suleiman is at the end of the day a military figure. The reason why Lahoud and Aoun are problematic is because they too are military figures. Lebanon today does not need a military figure to lead this nation.
2. What happened to the constitution? I invite my readers to actually read the constitution, which all too clearly stipulates:
[Chapter] III. The Executive Power
[Section] 1. The President of the Republic
Article 62 [Vacancy]
Should the Presidency become vacant for any reason whatsoever, the Council of Ministers exercises the powers of the President by delegation.
[Chapter] I. Election of the President of the Republic
Article 73 [Election of the President]
One month at least and two months at most before the expiration of the term of office of the President of the Republic, the Chamber is summoned by its President to elect the new
President of the Republic. However, should it not be summoned for this purpose, the Chamber meets of its own accord on the tenth day preceding the expiration of the President’s term of office.
Article 74 [Vacancy of Presidency]
Should the Presidency become vacant through the death or resignation of the President or for any other cause, the Chamber meets immediately and by virtue of the law to elect a successor. If the Chamber happens to be dissolved at the time the vacancy occurs, the electoral bodies are convened without delay and, as soon as the elections have taken place, the Chamber meets by virtue of the law.
The Chamber meeting to elect the President of the Republic is considered an electoral body and not a legislative assembly. It must proceed immediately, without discussion or any other act, to elect the Head of the State.
Suleiman is seriously violating the constitution because nowhere is there any mention of the possibility to create a transitional government and under no means is he allowed to sideline the Seniora government, which is the only entity that can constitutionally take over the president’s extraordinary powers. By offering himself as an alternative candidate for an alternative scenario (i.e. transitional government), Suleiman is challenging Seniora’s legitimacy to rightly follow the constitution’s sole procedure should Parliament not convene. Since when does bypassing the constitution become a feasible option when the constitutional option of extending the Seniora government’s powers exists?
Suleiman’s visit to Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir now comes out as very problematic and begs the question, has Sfeir approved of such a legal violation? It is quite impressive how prone Bkirki is to fatal mistakes. No Lebanese shall forget the church’s serious miscalculations.
Additionally, the statements we have been hearing attempting to justify this move are beyond outrageous:
1. Mansour ridiculously stated: “Such a government would be in keeping with established practice, which is for a president to hand over power to a Maronite prime minister. It happened twice before.” My question to Mansour: since when does established practice take precedence over following the Constitution? I actually am not aware of the second scenario Mansour is referring to besides Aoun’s premiership when a Maronite headed a government so reader input would be great if you can provide insight on this. Nevertheless, Mansour is relying on a political episode like the time of Aoun’s premiership to justify the credibility of Suleiman’s candidacy. Is there anyone out there that actually calls Aoun’s premiership constitutional? History has proven that Aoun’s government was illegal from beginning to end.
2. Lahoud (read Syria) said in a statement that he would not hand power over to the present Cabinet: “I assure you this will never happen. This is why I am calling for the formation of a cabinet of national unity, because in case the presidential election is not held, this cabinet could run the country, simply because it represents all segments of our society.” Ultimately, it is clear who inspired Mansour to approach Suleiman. It is also clear that Suleiman got the green light and blessing from Lahoud to present himself as a candidate to replace him. Given that Lahoud is the official puppet, what does that make Suleiman, associate puppet?
3. Amal MP Ayoub Humayed, as well as his fellow comrades from the March 8 bloc have called the holding of parliamentary sessions as unconstitutional. However I have a question: It is also unconstitutional to not hold a parliamentary session to elect a new president. Therefore, which is more unconstitutional, holding the session or not electing a new president? And actually, according to the constitution, Parliament can convene under “its own accord” to elect a new president ten days upon the termination of the president’s term of office.
In light of my above analysis, I have these concluding remarks to make:
1. The commander-in-chief of the army is supposed to be a solid figure for unity. The army, at the end of the day, is what is currently holding this country together, and has, despite all odds, done a tremendous job. However, the moment you take the head of this institution and put him in Baabda, the army will no longer serve the Constitution and will therefore no longer serve the Lebanese people.
2. Suleiman’s self-appointment as candidate calls into question his true loyalty to this country. After all, Syria would want nothing more than to have control over Baabda and the Lebanese Army.
3. What does all of this mean for Aoun? Suleiman is a dangerous contender to Aoun’s bid for the president because both have the position of Army Commander on their CVs. Aoun can certainly not be happy with this development because he is sidelined, and God forbid his personal ambition for Baabda be contested! Ironic enough, I am looking forward to the FPM making a statement that Suleiman’s move is unconstitutional. Should they do so, they will in fact be only too right.