BEIRUT: The Free Patriotic Movement's proposal to amend the Constitution is a bid to restore democracy and ensure proper Christian representation in Lebanon's top post, Change and Reform bloc MP Ibrahim Kanaan said Friday.
“The Lebanese people have the right to elect their president and the current proposal would reinstate that right to the people,” Kanaan said at news conference in Parliament explaining the party's draft law for a direct election of the president.
Kanaan explained that the amendment would be limited to the second clause of Article 49 of the Constitution and did not entail a change of Lebanon’s political system from a parliamentary system to a presidential one.
“For those who claim that amending Article 49 leads to undermining the national reconciliation pact, we remind them that this clause has been amended several times over the past 25 years and in a negative way, twice for extending presidential mandates and twice to hold the presidential poll at the last minute,” Kanaan said.
He argued that the proposed amendment “this time is aimed at resolving once and for all the deadlock in the presidential poll in which Lebanon is currently caught up.”
Under the proposed amendment, the president would be elected in two rounds of direct voting by the electorate. In the first round, only Christians would vote. But in the second round the whole electorate, both Muslims and Christians, would choose among the two candidates who scored the highest in the first round.
The proposal, initially put forth by bloc leader and head of the Free Patriotic Movement Michel Aoun in June, does not stand a chance to be passed in Parliament, with March 14 coalition parties dismissing it as an attempt to meddle with the Constitution to serve the interest of one person.
The proposed amendment was blasted before the draft law was presented by Kanaan.
Future MP Issam Araji said the timing was was not suitable to “deal a blow to the constitution and the Taif Agreement” which sealed national reconciliation ending 15 years of devastating Civil War.
“Aoun might think that his proposal for direct election from the people would increase his chances, but Constitution should not be changed for the sake of a single person,” Araji said in an interview with Voice of Lebanon Radio.
Lebanese Forces MP Fadi Karam slammed the proposal, saying “it is a maneuver aimed at serving the interest of one person seeking to retire in Baabda Palace,” in reference to Michel Aoun.
Although he has refrained from announcing his candidacy, Aoun is vying for the top post with the backing of the Hezbollah-led March 8 coalition.
March 8 MPs have boycotted several sessions to elect a successor to President Michel Sleiman, whose tenure expired on May 25, in the absence of an agreement on a compromise candidate.