The Center for Democracy and the Rule of Law - CDRL"
Date: Thu, 26 Aug 2004 07:38:51 -0400
Dr. Muhamad Mugraby, President
(For Immediate Release)
CDRL: More Urgently Needed Constitutional Reforms Have Priority
Over proposed Constitutional Amendment to Extend Lahouds Term
Beirut, August 26, 2004: The Center for Democracy and the Rule of Law (CDRL), of Beirut, Lebanon, has expressed its concern over the semi-official press release issued on behalf of Mr. Emile Lahoud on Tuesday, August 24, asserting his willingness to serve a new full term in office pursuant to a new constitutional amendment. This development calls for the following comments by CDRL.
1. It is clear from the text of the constitution that it may not be amended in a special session of parliament except by a draft bill approved by the cabinet on motion by the president himself. Consequently, Mr. Lahoud would make such motion in a cabinet meeting and, after a vote of approval, sign the draft bill and send it to parliament. He would also have to sign a decree calling parliament to a special session. All the above would give Mr. Lahouds will an undemocratic character.
2. If a constitutional amendment is, nationally, an available course of action, then the extension of the term of the incumbent president, or permitting him to run for a second term, does not constitute a valid national priority. More urgently needed constitutional reforms should take precedence, such as those designed to introduce firm new provisions with the following objectives:
A) Separation of church and state.
B) Restriction against army interference in civilian affairs.
C) Guarantees for liberty, rule of law and human rights.
D) Laying the foundations for the justice branch and the separation of the prosecutors offices from the judiciary.
E) Setting a viable system for direct democracy and local or autonomous government, as well as for elections based on single seat districts and voter registration tied to actual residence and not to place of birth registration.
F) Separating the presidency of the republic from the chairmanship of the cabinet.
G) Direct election of the president and the prime minister by the people.
H) Separation between cabinet membership and membership of parliament.
I) Establishment of a constitutional high court.
3. One of the conditions of the above reforms is the disarming of the militias such as Hizbullah and the withdrawal of the Syrian Army and other foreign soldiers from all Lebanese territory.
4. If the above reforms are not possible to introduce, then it makes little or no difference to the people of Lebanon who occupies the office of the president, with or without the re-election of the incumbent.