Voting for expatriates (2)... and their candidacy as well
(See Translation in Arabic Section
A large parliamentary bloc in Lebanon filed an appeal on Tuesday against the amendments to the electoral law before the Constitutional Council. Fairness requires saying that the appeal contained several sound legal reasons and may win a number of points, especially in terms of the quorum of the amendment session and the authority of the Minister of Justice to nominate judges as heads of registration committees, but not on the issue of expatriates.
From what the appeal was based on, the second session held by the House of Representatives, in which it confirmed the amendments, and did not consider the request of the President of the Republic to reconsider the law, was not constitutional. That is because the quorum required for its proper convening is most of the representatives who comprise the House legally and not only the actual members. This means that the majority must be counted from 128 seats and not from the remaining seats due to vacancy by resignation and death.
The vacancy that occurred persisted because it was not filled as required by law, and therefore the ruling majority cannot benefit from its action of maintaining the vacancy and reducing the quorum of the parliament's sessions accordingly. The Roman legal rule says that no one can invoke his fault, (nul ne peut se prévaloir de sa propre turpitude), no one can claim their own turpitude. As for the legal advice adopted by the Chamber of Deputies during the war and given at that time by a leading French legal scholar, Georges Vedel, it was given in view of the impossibility of holding by-elections to fill the vacant parliamentary seats.
If the Constitutional Council takes this view and considers that the second session is invalid due to the lack of a quorum, this does not lead to the demise of the amendments approved by the Parliament and a return to the text in force before the amendments, i.e. to the electoral law in the form of the year 2017, because the invalidity of the session entails a return to the situation in which it was It was before. That is there is a law approved by the House of Representatives and brought back by the President of the Republic for reconsideration, and therefore it needs to hold a session with a valid quorum to vote again on the reasons for the reconsideration made by the President.
One of the demands of the appellants is also to nullify the recent amendments regarding the abolition of the six seats for expatriates and the so-called 16th district. This demand is misplaced for the following reasons:
The six seats in the House of Representatives allocated to non-residents and distributed among sects and continents, are unconstitutional because of the defect they contain in terms of the principle of equality between voters and candidates. They are violatee Article 24 of the Constitution, which sets out the rules for distributing parliamentary seats, among which is that they are relatively distributed among regions. That is, it covers the Lebanese territories, not the continents of the world.
The right of expatriates to participate in the national political life should not be less than what the law allows for residents, i.e. voting and running for other departments and seats, and therefore limiting them to the six seats on the pretext that they are their own seats is a derogation from their right and not the other way around.
It is true that it is not permissible for the legislator to detract from a right or freedom that he has already enshrined in previous laws and he can only amend it in the direction of strengthening it. This rule, however, applies to texts that meet this description. As for texts that detract from rights and freedoms and limit their release, they are not. It is permissible to cling to it or prevent its amendment, especially when the amendment comes in the direction of liberating it from restrictions and expanding its scope to its maximum limit, which is what happened when the House of Representatives approved the abolition of the six seats.
Expatriates are part of the homeland and there is an urgent need to activate their role and rely on the sound practices on which they grew up abroad. Therefore, they should be encouraged to run for office in all constituencies, because their active participation in political life is a candidacy and not just a vote.