BEIRUT: Chibli Mallat,
who officially announced his candidacy for the
presidency last Thursday, has no doubts of his
merit: "I believe I have more to offer to
my country and the region than any other Maronite
While several names have been passed around
for the country's top post over the past weeks
as the pressure on President Emile Lahoud mounts,
Mallat is the first to have officially put himself
forward for the office.
"I want to force the issue as the continued
presence of Mr. Lahoud in power is a risk on the
stability of the country," he said, adding: "This
needs leadership which is being offered in this
open and structured bid."
Mallat, an attorney best
known for his advocacy of human rights issues,
said it is a "right" that any citizen
in a democracy like Lebanon can strive for an elected
position such as the presidency; a right which
he admits has long been a personal yearning.
"It is healthy when every single kid in Lebanon
believes he can become president," he said,
adding: "Of course [in Lebanon] there is the
sectarian issue" by which only a Maronite
Christian can become president, as set by the Constitution.
Mallat says that he first decided to run for president
in September, 2004; September 3, to be exact, "when
Lebanese democracy was severely undermined by the
forced extension of Lahoud."
"I took a stand then against it. It is continuing,
and Mr. Lahoud is not stepping down," he said. "I
have learned it is not sufficient to stand up negatively,
i.e. 'the president must go home.' One needs to
be positive and offer leadership when it is needed."
"I believe I needed to offer this leadership
openly," he said.
In addition to heading the Mallat law
firm, the presidential hopeful is EU Jean
Monnet Professor of Law and
director of the Center for the Study of the European
Union at Saint Joseph University in Beirut. He
is also a senior fellow at Yale University's
Mallat believes that a presidential campaign must
go through two stages: first, a campaign for the
public, "an open one."
"I want first to let the public in, to engage
a civilized debate that creates a buzz in the country.
This is key to success," he said. "We
will see about parliamentary blocs afterwards,
which is another campaign at a later stage."
"First things first: the Lebanese public
in," he said.
As for the current campaign by local politicians
for president Lahoud's resignation, Mallat said
that the president doesn't have any choice in the
"Mr. Lahoud has no business making
any choice whatsoever; it is an outrageous idea
that he can even think of it. He has already so
much to answer for, including all our dear friends
and colleagues who were killed or were maimed because
of his unconstitutional, unconscionable extension," he
While no official announcement has been made
that a presidential campaign in under way, according
to the candidate, public reaction to his candidacy
has been positive.
Copyright (c) 2005 The Daily Star