BEIRUT

Lebanon News

Strike six in Lebanon's presidential election

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri arrives at the presidential palace in Baabda, Sunday, March 30, 2014. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)

BEIRUT: Parliament’s latest session to elect a president failed, with observers saying lawmakers seem more focused on the fate of Tuesday’s legislative session over the salary scale.

Speaker Nabih Berri postponed the session to elect the new president to June 18, after it failed to convene due to a lack of quorum.

Political sources told The Daily Star that the atmosphere of the electoral session was not serious at all. Berri was meeting with Education Minister Elias Bou Saab and Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil to discuss the wage hike issue as the scheduled noon start for the electoral session approached.

The majority of lawmakers from the March 14 coalition arrived in Parliament while the Free Patriotic Movement and Hezbollah maintained their boycott. However, only 64 lawmakers were present Monday, compared with 70 in previous sessions.

Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt was absent from the session, the first one he has missed since Parliament started meeting to vote for a president.

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

Lebanese Forces MP Antoine Zahra said that Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea maintained his candidacy for the election.

He argued that lawmakers do not have the right to boycott Parliament’s session to elect a new head of state in light of presidential void.

“Do those who are obstructing the session and violating the constitution know that their right to absent from the sessions drops in light of presidential void?” he asked.

Former President Michel Sleiman renewed his call for the election of the new president away from the foreign intervention.

“It is not right to accuse the foreign community of obstructing the presidential election while we are setting preconditions and counter-conditions for the features of the new president,” Sleiman said in a tweet.

“Let us keep the foreign community away from the presidential election and take part in the parliamentary session to vote for a new president,” he said.

“It is not suitable for Lebanon, known for its democracy, to have enough with dancing in the celebrations of neighboring and brotherly elections,” he said in reference to the Syrian election of President Bashar Assad.

Geagea, who followed up the course of the session from his Maarab residence, described the day as another “sad” one and called on the Lebanese people to hold lawmakers accountable for obstructing the election.

“The Lebanese people should address the lawmakers that they elected who are obstructing quorum and question the motives behind their action,” Geagea said.

Following the session, Berri met with Sidon MP Bahia Hariri and he previously held talks with the head of the Future bloc former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.

 

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Summary

Parliament's latest session to elect a president failed, with observers saying lawmakers seem more focused on the fate of Tuesday's legislative session over the salary scale.

Speaker Nabih Berri postponed the session to elect the new president to June 18, after it failed to convene due to a lack of quorum.

However, only 64 lawmakers were present Monday, compared with 70 in previous sessions.

Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt was absent from the session, the first one he has missed since Parliament started meeting to vote for a president.

Former President Michel Sleiman renewed his call for the election of the new president away from the foreign intervention.


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