Preparations are underway for a new extension of Parliament’s mandate, which expires in November, due to the difficulties in holding parliamentary elections for political, legal, constitutional and technical reasons, diplomatic sources said.
Given Parliament’s failure for the eighth time Wednesday to choose a successor to former President Michel Sleiman and in the absence of long-awaited regional understanding on the presidential election issue, Lebanon is poised for a prolonged vacancy in the country’s top Christian post, the sources told The Daily Star.
Citing information from a Western state that exerts influence on internal Lebanese politics, the sources said Lebanon, embroiled in a string of security incidents and suicide bombings claimed by the Al-Qaeda-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), would not see the election of a new president this summer.
“Parliament’s failure to secure a quorum will be repeated and this probably what prompted Speaker Nabih Berri to postpone the next session for three weeks until July 23, in an ominous sign indicating that it is impossible to agree on a consensus president by that date or even after it,” the sources said.
They added that the same Western state has been placed in an atmosphere of preparations for a second extension of Parliament’s mandate, which was extended last year for 17 months after lawmakers had failed to endorse a new electoral law.
Citing political, legal and constitutional factors for not holding parliamentary elections scheduled in November, the sources said consultations have begun in political and official corridors on how to secure a second extension of Parliament’s term, which is expected to be for one and a half years.
The failure to both elect a president and hold parliamentary elections on time is bound to prolong the life of Prime Minister Tammam Salam’s government, which is expected to stay in office until next year, the sources said.
“Therefore, the current government, which comprises representatives from the March 8 and March 14 parties and centrists, will be the one who exercises real executive power until a new president is elected and until Lebanon has overcome the current sensitive stage through which the region is passing, that is until next year,” they added.
According to the sources, the stumbled negotiations between Iran and Western states over Tehran’s nuclear program, the political and security crisis in Iraq, the dramatic developments in Syria and signs of the emergence of new states, like a Kurdish state in Iraq, are issues that currently preoccupy international powers which do not give attention to Lebanon now except in terms of boosting its internal stability.
In the eyes of international powers, any attempt to tamper with Lebanon’s stability would lead the country to dangerous security repercussions that would threaten Lebanon’s unique power-sharing formula in this region. “Western officials have said that they are assured of the internal Lebanese situation because they are betting on the political leaders’ awareness of the gravity of the scheme drawn for Lebanon,” the sources said.
They added that this Lebanese consciousness was manifested in the rejection to provide a safe haven for terrorism in Lebanon and in the wave of wide embracing of the Army and security forces from the extreme north to the extreme south, including the Bekaa Valley region.
A political leader who visited Paris recently told people close to him that French officials have serious doubts that a breakthrough could be made in the Lebanese presidential election issue.
Therefore, the political stalemate will continue to reign. Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun’s proposal this week for electing a president by the people, which quickly drew fire from the March 14 coalition, came apparently in response to Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea’s recent initiative to break the impasse.
Aoun’s proposal is merely an attempt to put out feelers to the other [March 14] side toward the possibility of making constitutional amendments, political sources said.