Lebanon crisis

Lebanon: Impeach the President

Rami Rayess

Published: Updated:

There are little expectations related to resolving the severe multiple crises’ that Lebanon is passing through. With Coronavirus imposing total lockdown in the country, there are barely any political meetings to form a new cabinet, or to draw a road map out of the impasse.

Impeaching the Lebanese President, Michel Aoun seems far-fetched, as long as he earns the support of Hezbollah. The Christian parties' silence is deafening with fear of the precedent being set to remove the incumbent Christian President. They ignore two earlier similar cases that happened in Lebanon’s contemporary history.

The first was in 1952 when a so-called “White Rebellion” removed the first President after the country's independence in 1943. As the Lebanese took to the streets refusing corruption and requesting reform, they took from office, Behara el Khoury.

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The second removal happened six years later, when in 1958, a popular revolution crippled Camille Chamoun's chances to renew his term as president.

Today, any call for the President to resign is categorically refused by the Maronite Church and several Christian political parties.

The President is not above the law and is accountable for his decisions. It implies a sectarian divide, when Muslims call for the Christian president's resignation. It is not. Calling for the removal of the President cannot be regarded as a sectarian call; rather it is a political demand.

Sectarian divisions have been always been present in Lebanon, and reached their peak during the long civil strife from 1975 to 1990, but they rarely reached that level during times of peace.

Refusal to impeach a President found its roots in 2005 when the late Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir blocked plans to oust the incumbent President at the time, Emile Lahoud.

The mainstream media in Lebanon has placed emphasis on a meeting held between three former Prime Ministers. Fouad Saniora, Tammam Salam and Najib Mikati along with the Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Joumblatt met almost three weeks ago in Salam's house. Many analysts considered that this meeting marked the first step towards forming a wider political alliance aiming at ousting the President.

Joumblatt had denied in several televised interviews his willingness to indulge in any front with other political players before Christian leaders and Christian parties led calls for ousting the President. He wants to avoid the rise of sectarian tension in the country.

The Lebanese Constitution does not stipulate any particular provisions to impeach the President unless for indictment for such as, high treason.

The Taif Accord (1989) that ended the Lebanese fifteen year civil war rearranged political prerogatives and removed important powers from the hands of the President. They were instead allocated to the collective decision of the council of ministers. Introducing impeachment amendments hasn't happened.

With little political change expected in Lebanon due to the current balance of power, largely tilted in favor of Hezbollah, the President and his party, the Free Patriotic Movement do little. Hezbollah controls the political process in the country through its proxy allies.

The Presidency, Parliament, Premiership and other constitutional institutions are not fully impaired, but taking important political decisions are at the behest of Hezbollah.

With the country’s economy crumbling, leaders in charge of forming the new cabinet seem totally disconnected with the upcoming social catastrophe. Hyperinflation is reaching untenable levels, and accompanied by currency devaluation.

The crisis of confidence between President Michel Aoun and the Prime Minister Designate, Saad Hariri has peaked, after leaked TV footage revealed Aoun saying that Hariri lied when he said he handed the President a list of nominees for the ministerial posts for the cabinet, which the President discarded as incorrect.

If Lebanon does not embark on a full reform plan launched by a trustworthy cabinet of specialists, the economic situation will deteriorate further with no clear political solutions on the horizon. Impeaching the incumbent President is the first step necessary, but is insufficient to bring change to the country. Is the worst yet to come?

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