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The first time the Lebanese Constitution was altered after 1948 was during the Lebanese Civil War in 1976. The alteration targeted Article 73, which had been amended earlier in 1927 as well. 
 
Article 73 in its current form 
“One month at least and two months at most before the expiration of the term of office of the President of the Republic, Parliament shall be convened by its Speaker to elect the new President of the Republic. However, should it not be convened for this purpose, Parliament shall meet automatically on the tenth day preceding the expiration of the President’s term of office.”
 
Grounds for amendment
In 1976, Lebanon was in a state of war and sectarian and political divides were deepening. One of the main disputes revolved around the term of office of the then President of the Republic Suleiman Frangieh. While some voices called for shortening the President’s term and electing a successor as soon as possible, the majority of Christian forces wanted him to remain in office until the expiration of his term. Yet, the developments that unfolded at that time and the fear of a potential vacuum in the presidency necessitated the amendment of Article 73 and the shortening of the deadline for the election of a President. 
 
On Saturday, April 10, 1976, Parliament convened in its temporary headquarters at the Mansour Palace in Mathaf to approve the Constitutional amendment. Despite attempts to hamper the amendment by firing shells that fell near the Mansour Palace, 90 MPs attended the session and approved it in11 minutes. Speaker Kamel Al-Asaad signed the amendment and passed it to PM Rashid Karami who in turn approved it and submitted it to the President of the Republic. President Suleiman Frangieh also affixed his signature 
“One month at least and two months at most before the expiration of the term of office of the President of the Republic, Parliament shall be convened by its Speaker to elect the new President of the Republic. However, should it not be convened for this purpose, Parliament shall meet automatically on the tenth day preceding the expiration of the President’s term of office.“
to the amendment, which was finally issued on April 24, 1976 and read as follows:  “One month at least and six months at most before the expiration of the term of office of the President of the Republic, Parliament shall be convened by its Speaker to elect the new President of the Republic. The amendment shall remain effective until September 23, 1976. ”

This has allowed President Suleiman Frangieh to remain in office until the last minute of his term while at the same time legitimizing the election of a new president six months before the expiration of presidential term to avoid potential void. Pursuant to this amendment, Parliament convened on Saturday, May 8, 1976 and elected the Central Bank Governor, Elias Sarkis, as President of the Republic. 
“PM Rashid Karami viewed that ‘by voting today, MPs have placed the country on track towards a political solution to build future Lebanon and have proved worthy of trust in times of hardships.”“

Positions on amendment

This session was deemed ‘historical’ by Speaker Kamel Al-Asaad who said ‘Parliament convenes today with its varied blocs and currents to wrap up a constitutional amendment as a prelude to end the existing crisis. This is a proof that the people of Lebanon, through their authenticity, aspirations and unity, have proved to be stronger in times of ordeal.”

PM Rashid Karami viewed that ‘by voting today, MPs have placed the country on track towards a political solution to build future Lebanon and have proved worthy of trust in times of hardships.”

Camille Chamoun (who was a potential presidential candidate) said “the session assured that problems can only be solved through dialogue and that the Lebanese Parliament is the final decisive authority and the sole legislative power.”

PM Saeb Salam branded the session as the first step in a journey of a thousand miles whereby MPs proved that Lebanon would remain united.

MP Raymond Edde (who was also a potential presidential candidate) boycotted the session because he wanted the amendment to also target Article 49, not only Article 73. He thus absented himself from the session in order not to break unanimity over the amendment. Edde held that the President had a period of thirty days to approve (sign) the amendment and expected him to delay his signing in order to pick the right timing to elect the candidate he liked.  
MP Kamal Jumblat did not attend the session and revealed that the Syrian Brigade 91 had entered Rashaya. He called on the President to approve the amendment so that Parliament can convene in a one-week time and elect a new candidate to the presidential office. “The presidential election cannot happen as long as our ports and airports are occupied.”

Maronite Patriarch Mar Antonios Boutros Khreich applauded the Parliament’s move, hoping that it would be a prelude to reverting Lebanon back to security.

This parliamentary, political and religious unanimity among the Lebanese over the amendment of the Constitution in the hope that it would accelerate the election of a president and resolve the crisis was a mere wishful thinking because the Civil War had already trespassed all this and become a regional matter that was too knotty for a constitutional amendment to untie.  

 


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