BEIRUT - Lebanon’s Chamber of Deputies voted unanimously to amend Article 21 of the Constitution to lower the voting age from 21 to 18. The bill was supported by all parties in a session that was delayed for almost an hour so that a quorum of 86 deputies could be assembled for the vote.
Parliamentary Bureau delegate Serge Ter Sarkissian said the bill tabled by ten deputies was passed without much debate. It will now be forwarded to the government for the drafting of a constitutional amendment within the next four months. Sarkissian said, “This consensus of deputies agreeing across party lines is a rare political event and the first of this magnitude since the election of General Michel Suleiman as President, especially given the standoff between the March 8 and March 14 camps.”
Meanwhile Lebanese Forces Deputy Antoine Zahra said his party had linked its approval of the lower voting age amendment to the introduction of a clear voting mechanism for expatriates. He added that, “Young voters will miss the June 7 election for logistical and technical reasons relating to the Interior Ministry’s inability to revise electoral lists in time. They will have to wait for the 2010 municipal elections and then the Parliamentary elections in 2013.”
The Chamber failed to agree on an amendment to Article 70 of the constitution that empowers an absolute majority in the Chamber to charge the Prime Minister and Cabinet members with high treason or failure to fulfil their obligations after the expression of strong opposition to consideration of the bill. As a result, Chamber Speaker Nabih Berri did not put it to a vote.
A third Constitutional amendment which would have added an introductory clause on the naturalisation of Palestinians failed to pass, with several deputies quoting from the introduction to the Lebanese Constitution, “The territory of Lebanon is for the Lebanese and there can be no naturalisation or partition or division.” Speaker Berri affirmed that, “No one wants naturalisation because it will not only damage and greatly imperil Lebanon, but also the Palestinian cause.” He continued, “The introduction to the Constitution, which rejects naturalisation, is irrefutable. It is like the Lebanese cedar in the Lebanese flag.”
Source: Voice of Lebanon Radio