Lebanon News

What happens in a presidential vacuum?

File - The president 's chair is seen empty in Baabda, Tuesday, March 11, 2014. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: President Michel Sleiman is slated to leave Baabda Palace Saturday without a successor, so what happens next?

“If there is vacuum in the presidency for any reason, the powers of the president are transferred to the Cabinet,” states Article 62 of the Lebanese Constitution.

The president’s powers and duties are various.

According to the Constitution, he decides whether to issue laws passed by Parliament and then asks that they be published in the Official Gazette. He negotiates international treaties in conjunction with the prime minister, can chair Cabinet sessions and appoints the prime minister after consulting with MPs. He issues the decree to form a government in coordination with the prime minister-designate and officially accepts the resignation of ministers or fires them.

The president can also ask the Cabinet to dissolve Parliament under certain circumstances.

According to former Speaker Hussein Husseini, the Cabinet would be able to practice all of the president’s powers.

However, the move could raise concerns that the prime minister – a Sunni, in line with tradition – would infringe on the power of the Maronite president, a sensitive issue in a country governed by a delicate sectarian balance.

As a result, Husseini told The Daily Star that the government “should not make decisions that could be postponed.”

“As for things that cannot be postponed, they should be addressed by the Cabinet,” he added. “The basic principle that should be respected is that ‘there should be no power vacuum.’”

Husseini dismissed suggestions that Cabinet decisions be made unanimously during a presidential vacancy or that decrees should bear the signatures of all ministers.

He said just as under normal conditions, some Cabinet decisions would require a majority and more important ones a two-thirds majority.

There are also fears paralysis could spread to Parliament, with some Christian parties hinting that they would boycott non-urgent legislative sessions if there were a vacuum.

However, Husseini and Speaker Nabih Berri have argued Parliament could hold normal sessions during a presidential void.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 24, 2014, on page 2.




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