Lebanon News

Seventh session fails, Berri postpones presidential vote

Lawmakers trade jokes in Parliament after Berri postpones a voting session to elect a new president Wednesday, June 18, 2014. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)

BEIRUT: Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri Wednesday postponed a seventh session to elect a new president for Lebanon as the rival political parties, who have not agreed on a consensus candidate to replace former President Michel Sleiman, failed to secure the needed quorum.

The eighth session was scheduled for July 2, a departure from the usual one-week intervals between sessions.

After announcing the postponement, Berri went straight into a meeting with a Future Movement delegation headed by former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora to discuss the controversial salary raise.

Also present at the meeting at Berri's office in Parliament were Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil and Education Minister Elias Bou Saab.

The scene in Parliament was a familar one, as only 63 of the 128 lawmakers had arrived at Parliament headquarters in Downtown Beirut by the scheduled noon start for the legislative session.

Berri has called seven failed sessions since April, all of which have been boycotted by Free Patriotic Movement Michel Aoun and his allies, citing lack of agreement on a consensus president.

Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, who has presented himself as a presidential candidate, said the problem does not lie with him or with his rival, Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun.

“The problem is the continuous boycott of Parliament,” Geagea told a news conference.

“Let those acting in a representative capacity agree on two or three candidates and take them to Parliament,” he added.

For his part, Aoun has warned that a prolonged presidential vacuum in Lebanon would push the country into an “explosive” political situation.

“If we reach parliamentary polls [scheduled for November] before holding the presidential election, then the political situation in Lebanon will explode,” he said in a TV interview Tuesday.

The Future parliamentary bloc again blamed the Hezbollah-led March 8 coalition for disrupting the voting sessions.

"The solution lies in the hands of those who are blocking this deadline, namely March 8 forces that fail to participate in the parliamentary voting sessions," the bloc said in a statement issued after its weekly meeting Tuesday. “Lawmakers need to commit to their constitutional duty regarding the election of a new president in the upcoming voting session."

The bloc said a presidential vacuum must not be allowed to continue.

Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt, who arrived in Paris Tuesday, will miss the voting session due to his work schedule.

Jumblatt will reportedly meet former Prime Minister Saad Hariri Friday over a working dinner hosted by the leader of the Future Movement at his residence in Paris.

Meanwhile, Future Movement sources denied that Hariri and Jumblatt would discuss the possibility of supporting a consensus presidential candidate.

“Discussing such an issue is in the hands of Christian parties and [those] who represent them. The role of Muslim parties is a helping rather than a decisive factor,” one source told The Daily Star.





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