Full Text of the Law

The single article, which made up the law, stipulates the following:

The mandate of the current Parliament shall end exceptionally on November 20, 2014. This law shall enter into force upon its publication in the Official Gazette and it shall be passed expeditiously in conformity with the first paragraph of Article 56 of the constitution (the President of the Republic must issue the law within 5 days and request its publication in the Official Gazette).

Compelling Reasons

Contrary to the usual norm, the compelling reasons for this law were stated in the Official Gazette and included the following:

  • The security turmoil plaguing the country and having clear and direct implications for the normality of life in many regions across Lebanon
  • The critical political escalation and divides which assume oftentimes sharp sectarian dimensions.
  • The unrestrained use of weapons disturbing the stability of the regions and the image of the state.

With the elections approaching, these inconveniences will leave negative impact on the fragile economic, commercial and tourism sectors, thus leading to full-blown economic paralysis. These circumstances are deemed a typical force majeure that entails the extension of Parliament’s mandate.

The legislature’s mandate has been extended several times under urgent and compelling circumstances during the times of war.

The Constitutional Council asserted that the legislature has the right to determine its mandate duration but cannot amend such duration unless on grounds of absolute exigency and within the time limits that such exigency entails.

Interpretation of the Constitutional Council

The verdicts issued by the Constitutional Council in previous cases were both inclined towards refusing the extension of the legislature’s term and respecting the principle of the rotation of power.

First Case

Law No. 530 issued on July 11, 1996 amended some provisions of the electoral law in force, stipulating the adoption of Mohafazas as electoral districts, with the exception of Mount Lebanon, where every Qada’a was considered a district of its own. Article 5 of Law No. 530 postulated the following:

“Contrary to any other previous legal texts, the duration of Parliament’s term shall be exceptionally set at 4 years and 8 months expiring on June 15, 2001. Once expired, Article 1 of the Parliamentary Election Law dated April 36, 1960 and its amendments shall apply again (Article 1 maintains a mandate of four years).”

The amendment was challenged by two groups of MPs. The first requested the invalidation of Article 1 (use of two criteria in districts’ division) and Article 3 (resignation from all public posts to be able to run as candidate), while the second group only objected to the latter. The Constitutional Council issued its decision No. 4 on August 7, 1996, less than a month after the issuance of Law No. 530, addressing the two appeals jointly and canceling the problematic articles together with Article 4 (shortening the duration between the call on electoral committees and the date of elections from 6 months to 15 days) and Article 5 (extension of Parliament’s term). In other terms, the Constitutional Council expanded its decision to include items that were not disputed by appellants in the first place. The Council’s response to the extension of the legislature’s mandate came as follows: “The text of Article 5, which entails the extension of Parliament’s term, violates the established parliamentary norms and cannot be justified by the exception enclosed thereto.”

The Council’s committee was chaired at the time by Wajdi Malat and consisted of members Jawad Osseiran, Adib Allam, Michel Terkiyeh, Pierre Ghannaji, Kamel Raydan, Mohammad Majthoub, Khaled Qabbani, Antoine Khair and Salim al-Azar. In view of the constitutional Council’s decision, Parliament convened anew and approved a new electoral law in conformity with the Council’s remarks.

Second Case

Law No.655 dated July 24, 1997 was concerned with prolonging the mandate of the Mukhtars and the Ikhtiyariyah bodies until April 30, 1999. After a series of extensions that followed the date of term expiry on June 30, 1997, a number of deputies filed an appeal before the Constitutional Council in the hope of repealing the law in question.

After due consideration to the petitioned appeals, the Constitutional Council gave its verdict No. 2/97 on September 12, 1997 accepting the raised appeals based on the following:

“Article 15 of the law on Mukhtars and municipal councils issued on November 27, 1947 determined the duration of mandate of the Mukhtars and the Ikhtiyariyah bodies at 4 years and subjected the Ikhtiyariyah elections to the same provisions governing municipal elections. By virtue of Law No. 655/ 97, the legislature kept stretching their respective terms of office for quite a long time in the absence of any overpowering situation that validates the extensions and the holding of the parliamentary elections in 1992 and 1996 and the municipal elections in 1994 and 1997 attested best to the inexistence of any substantiating exceptional conditions. Hence, the extensions violated the constitutional principle of the rotation of power in defiance of Article 7 of the Constitution and denied the local communities their right to manage their own affairs freely and to exercise their voting rights in a regular manner.”

The decision was supported by members Khaled Qabbani, Hussein Hamdan, Adib Allam, Kamel Raydan, Michel Terkiyeh, Mostafa Al-Awji and Antoine Kheyr and opposed by the council’s President Amin Nassar and members Fawzi Abou Mrad and Salim Jraissati.

Future of the Current Appeal

President Michel Suleiman and members of the Change and Reform Bloc headed by General Michel Aoun submitted an appeal before the Constitutional Council to challenge the extension of Parliament’s term. Although 7 members have reportedly agreed to accept the challenge to the Parliament’s decision to extend its term, the Constitutional Council failed to convene due to lack of quorum. The attendance of 8 judges out of 10 is required for a quorum to be reached, but the absence of Mohammad Bassam Mortada (Shia’a), Ahmad Takieddine (Shia’a) and Suheil Abdul Samad (Druze) resulted in the defacto approval of the law extending the legislature’s term.