Thursday, November 29, 2007

Lebanon - Who will be President still a painful issue

Raad: No Constitutional Amendment by Saniora’s Gov’t.
Naharnet Almanartv 0

28/11/2007 The head of the Loyalty to Resistance Parliamentary bloc MP Mohammed Raad said Wednesday that the unconstitutional government of Fouad Saniora does not have the authority to propose a constitutional amendment allowing the election of Army Commander General Michel Suleiman president.

Noting that he is voicing "a viewpoint that remains personal," Raad told Naharnet: "To me, at the personal level, I believe a constitutional amendment in parliament is possible after resignation of Fouad Saniora from the government which is neither constitutional nor legitimate. Parliament cannot meet with a non-constitutional government. I am not making a proposal, but expressing a view point that remains personal."

However, Raad stressed that "we will not block any consensus possibility if the intro to it is a constitutional amendment, provided that all opposition factions have agreed on it."

In answering a question as to whether the Hezbollah parliamentary bloc will attend a session to amend the constitution, Raad said: "We believe that any constitutional amendment will be fabrication based on tacit approval by both the ruling bloc factions and the opposition due to an extraordinary and very important matter. This issue should be discussed in detail by the opposition."

What would your stand be if amending the constitution to elect General Suleiman is the only salvation solution? Raad was asked.

He replied: "In fact, this issue needs to be judged to realize its seriousness in the candidate-proposing formula, and to know if the other side considers it the salvation solution." He recalled that Saniora had "pledged to chop off his hand before signing a constitutional amendment decree. If he is ready now to chop off his hand lets discuss this issue," Raad added.

"We see no seriousness in tackling this issue, some (factions) are trying to maneuver by throwing the ball into the other side's court." Raad said Gen. Suleiman "knows well our stand regarding him, we explained our stand to him in details a long time ago. And when nominating him is proposed seriously we'll discuss the topic."

He asked "why wasn't (suleiman's nomination) in the basked on candidates. Is constitutional amendment possible now, from a constitutional point of view? And who amends the constitution now? An unconstitutional government and a parliament that doesn't meet with this unconstitutional government? This issue requires a discussion."

In answering a question as to whether nominating Gen. Suleiman could be proposed as a salvation exit out of the ongoing political crisis, Raad replied: "If the opposition adopted this view point, then why not. But the opposition might not adopt this view point … This issue requires a decision. But this government is neither legal nor constitutional, how can it be entrusted with a constitutional amendment … in the first place it does not exist as far as we are concerned. Amending the constitution requires a two-thirds vote by a legal government so that a decree can be referred to parliament. Parliament does not accept illegitimate decrees by the illegitimate government."

Army Chief Could Become Lebanon President

28/11/2007 Lebanon's political vacuum could be headed toward a resolution with the country's army chief emerging as a likely candidate for the presidency, officials said on Wednesday. Several MPs and politicians from the ruling bloc and the Lebanese national opposition told AFP that negotiations on electing a new president were now focused on General Michel Sleiman, commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

MP Ammar Houry, from the Future Parliamentary bloc, said that there was agreement within the ruling bloc to amend the constitution in order to allow Sleiman to become head of state, thus ending a year-long crisis that has left the country on the brink of chaos. According to Lebanon's constitution, senior public servants can seek the presidency only two years after resigning from their post and for that reason the constitution would need to be amended for Sleiman to be elected.

After five aborted attempts, parliament is scheduled to reconvene on Friday to pick a successor to former President Emile Lahoud, who left office last week with feuding politicians unable to agree on a consensus candidate to replace him. Several officials said that session was not likely to take place as more time was needed to finalize an accord on Sleiman.

However, not everyone was cheering the choice of Sleiman to end the political deadlock that began last November. "I am personally opposed to Sleiman's nomination as it would be against democratic principles," said Boutros Harb, a member of the ruling bloc and a declared presidential candidate now apparently out of the running. "I have nothing against him personally ... but his appointment would amount to prostituting the constitution once again."

Mohammad Fneish, a Hezbollah MP and one of the ministers who resigned last year, told AFP that the group's acceptance of Sleiman as president hinged on opposition leader and declared candidate General Michel Aoun agreeing. Simon Abiramia, an advisor to Aoun, said all scenarios were possible and that the situation could become clearer early next week.
"We must take into account realities on the ground and the red lines that we ourselves drew," Abiramia said. "That means maintaining civil peace and the unity of the country."

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