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Lebanon News

Voting session: Nothing new

Speaker Nabih Berri reads in Parliament a letter from President Michel Sleiman urging MPs to elect a new president, Wednesday, May 21, 2014. (The Daily Star/ Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: A legislative session set for midday Monday is doomed to fail to elect a new president for Lebanon over lack of agreement on a compromise candidate.

"There is nothing new in terms of an agreement on a new president," Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri told local daily Al-Joumhouria in remarks published Monday.

Berri said the session would be held on schedule at noon.

“If quorum is secured, there will be an election. Otherwise the session will be postponed,” he said.

Lawmakers have botched five attempts since April 23 to elect a successor to former President Michel Sleiman, whose six-year term ended on May 25, due to lack of the two-thirds quorum of the legislature’s 128 members.

The presidential vacuum has already paralyzed Parliament’s legislation and is threatening government work, as the Cabinet remains split over how to exercise full executive powers, including the president’s prerogatives, during the presidential void.

The presidential vacuum entered its third week Monday as lawmakers are scheduled to attend an electoral session likely to share the fate of the earlier attempts over differences between the rival parties on a compromise candidate.

Separately, Berri said he had “near-identical viewpoints” with Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun on the controversial pay hike issue.

Berri, according to visitors, said he received assurances that FPM lawmakers and Walid Jumblatt’s parliamentary bloc would attend Tuesday’s legislative session set to vote on the public sector salary scale.

Lawmakers are divided over revenue measures to finance the wage hike, expected to cost the cash-strapped treasury some $1.6 billion annually. Proposals being debated include raising the rate of VAT from 10 to 11 percent, as well as placing new taxes on illegal seafront properties.

Major Christian parties have been boycotting Parliament, arguing that it cannot legislate while the presidency is vacant.

MPs from the Hezbollah-led March 8 coalition, including Aoun’s Change and Reform bloc, will attend Tuesday’s session along with Jumblatt’s bloc, securing the needed quorum, political sources told The Daily Star.

 

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Summary

A legislative session set for midday Monday is doomed to fail to elect a new president for Lebanon over lack of agreement on a compromise candidate.

Berri said the session would be held on schedule at noon.

The presidential vacuum has already paralyzed Parliament's legislation and is threatening government work, as the Cabinet remains split over how to exercise full executive powers, including the president's prerogatives, during the presidential void.

Berri, according to visitors, said he received assurances that FPM lawmakers and Walid Jumblatt's parliamentary bloc would attend Tuesday's legislative session set to vote on the public sector salary scale.


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