President of Lebanon
|President of the|
رئيس الجمهورية اللبنانية
Président de la République Libanaise
|Term length||6 years|
Bechara El Khoury|
22 November 1943
Constitution of Lebanon|
23 May 1926
The President of the Lebanese Republic is the head of state of Lebanon. The president is elected by the parliament for a term of six years, which is not immediately renewable. By convention, the president is always a Maronite Christian.
From the expiration of the term of President Michel Suleiman in May 2014 until October 31, 2016, the parliament was unable to obtain the majority required to elect a president, and the office was vacant for almost two and a half years, despite more than 30 votes being held. In response to the deadlock, Youmna Maksoud suggested amending the constitution to make the presidency popularly elected. Under the proposal, Lebanese Christians would choose two candidates who would run in a national election in which all voters were eligible to participate. On October 31, 2016, the parliament finally elected Michel Aoun as President.
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The constitution requires the president hold the same qualifications as a member of Parliament (also called the Chamber of Deputies), which are Lebanese citizenship and attainment of the age of twenty-one.
Though not specifically stated in the constitution, an understanding known as the National Pact, agreed in 1943, customarily limits the office to members of the Maronite Christian faith. This is based on a gentlemen's agreement between Lebanon's Maronite Christian President Bechara El Khoury and his Sunni Muslim Prime Minister Riad Al Solh, which was reached in 1943, when Lebanon became independent of France, and described that the President of the Republic was to be a Maronite Christian, the Prime Minister a Sunni Muslim, and the Speaker of Parliament a Shia Muslim.
|“||I swear by Almighty God to observe the Constitution and the laws of the Lebanese Nation and to maintain the independence of Lebanon and its territorial integrity.||”|
Role and responsibilities
As described in the constitution, the president is commander-in-chief of the Lebanese Armed Forces and security forces; may appoint and dismiss the prime minister and cabinet; promulgates laws passed by Parliament; may also veto bills; and may dissolve Parliament. In addition, he may also issue "emergency" legislation by decree. In practice, however, Lebanon being a parliamentary republic, the president is essentially the repository of reserve powers and the office is largely symbolic. Nevertheless, the president remains by far and large the most important member of the executive, and his veto on any legislation de facto ensures that it will not be law. This is despite his powers having been somewhat moderated under Ta'if, such as making the Prime Minister responsible to the legislature rather than the president himself, and increasing the powers of the Cabinet; nevertheless, these reforms have not substantially altered the president's power, as he is still the sole person who can nominate and fire the prime minister and the Cabinet.
His major responsibilities (following Ta'if) include:
- Issue the decree appointing the Prime Minister (by convention Sunni Muslim) independently.
- Issue the decree forming the government (i.e. the cabinet), co-signed by the Prime Minister. The government must then receive a vote-of-confidence by the Chamber of Deputies (51%) in order to become active.
- Fire the Prime Minister (at will, no confirmation needed). This automatically fires the entire government, meaning every minister.
- Fire an individual minister. Requires confirmation of 2/3 of the cabinet and the signature of the PM. If more than 1/3 of the ministers constituting the initial government are fired/resign, then the entire government is considered resign.
- Sign into law and promulgate laws (countersigned by the PM).
- Veto bills passed by the parliament and the cabinet. The veto can be overriden by the Chamber of Deputies through a constitutional procedure. The cabinet cannot override the President.
- Sign decrees concerning a specific ministry(ies). Countersigned by the PM and ministers involved.
- Negotiate and ratify international treaties. All treaties must be approved by 2/3 of the cabinet before entering into force. Treaties involving spending that cannot be cancelled every new year must also be approved by Parliament (51%).
- Dissolve the parliament. Must be countersigned by the PM, and requires a 2/3 approval of the cabinet.
- Pass "emergency decrees" without the parliament's approval (article 58). Requires a half + 1 majority of the ministers. To pass emergency decrees without the parliament's approval, the parliament must spend 40 days without taking any action on a bill that was previously declared urgent by the president.
Previously to Ta'if, the president only needed the "favourable advice" of his ministers, rather than a clear consensus/majority. Nevertheless, while it may seem that the president is a "symbolic role" or significantly subjected to the will of his ministers, constitutionally, it is not so. The president retains the right to fire the entire government at will, and is still the person who nominates every minister - thereby effectively ensuring that they will all be favorable to him. In practice, the president's office has been weakened because of a) no clear majorities of parties and blocs in Parliament, b) the election of "consensus" (meaning generally weak, or defferent[clarification needed]), presidents, and c) the formation of divided cabinets. The perceived weakness of the president is thus rooted in political, rather than constitutional, issues.
Symbolic Roles and Duties
Following the ratification of the Ta'if Accord, the Constitution laid out a preamble for the three "key" executive posts: the President, the Prime Minister, and the Council of Ministers. The preamble states the following:
|“||The President of the Republic is the Chief of State, and the symbol of the unity of the Homeland. He ensures the respect of the Constitution, and the maintenance of Lebanon's independence, its unity, and its territorial integrity in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution. He chairs the Higher Defence Council. He is the Commander in Chief of the armed forces which are subject to the authority of the Council of Ministers.||”|
The posts that come with the presidency are as follow:
- Chair of the Supreme Defense Council.
- Commander in chief of the armed forces.
- State President of Lebanon (the head of state).
Official State car
The president's car is a W221 Mercedes-Benz S600Guard armoured limousine and it is escorted by the Republican Guard's SUVs and other security vehicles including the preceding official state car, an armoured W140 S600 now possibly used as a back up limo.
Thirty to sixty days before the expiration of a president's term, the speaker of the Chamber of Deputies calls for a special session to elect a new president, which selects a candidate for a six-year term on a secret ballot in which a two-thirds majority is required to elect. If no candidate receives a two-thirds majority, a second ballot is held in which only a majority is required to elect. An individual cannot be reelected president until six years have passed from the expiration of his or her first term.
Quorum for an election
The Constitution is silent on the issue of the quorum needed to call to order a parliamentary presidential electoral meeting. In the absence of a clear provision designating the quorum needed to elect the President, the constitution is open to differing interpretations. According to one view on the issue, a quorum constituting a majority of fifty-percent plus one (that required for any meeting of Parliament) is sufficient for a parliamentary presidential electoral meeting. Another view on the issue argues that the quorum is a two-third majority of the total members of Parliament as Article 49 of the constitution requires a two-third voting majority to elect the President in the first round and, if the quorum were half plus one, there would have been no need to require the two-third voting majority when the number of deputies present at the meeting does not exceed the quorum.
List of presidents
- "Lebanese MPs fail to elect president for eighth time". Reuters. 2 July 2014. Retrieved 15 July 2016.
- "Why Lebanon Cannot Pick a President". stratfor.com. Stratfor. Retrieved 15 July 2016.
- Collelo, Thomas (1987). Lebanon: A Country Study. Government Printing Office. ISBN 0160017319.
- Harb, Imad. "Lebanon's Confessionalism: Problems and Prospects". usip.org. United States Institute of Peace. Retrieved 15 July 2016.
- "Lebanon - Constitution". unibe.ch. International Constitutional Law Project. Retrieved 15 July 2016.
- Mordechai Nisan, Minorities in the Middle East: A History of Struggle and Self-Expression (2d ed.: McFarland, 2002), p. 219.
- Saliba, Issam. "Lebanon: Presidential Election and the Conflicting Constitutional Interpretations". loc.gov. Library of Congress. Retrieved 15 July 2016.