BEIRUT

Lebanon News

Berri: Fears of presidential vacuum real

Lebanese parliament speaker Nabih Berri casts his vote to elect the new Lebanese president in the parliament building in downtown Beirut April 23, 2014. (REUTERS/Joseph Eid/Pool)

BEIRUT: Speaker Nabih Berri voiced fear Lebanon would be plunged into a power vacuum in light of sharp divisions between the country’s major coalitions over the presidential election.

“If we witness a repetition of what happened last Wednesday and quorum is not secured, then the fear of a vacuum becomes real and serious and we don't even necessarily have to reach the May 25 deadline to recognize that,” Berri told Al-Akhbar in remarks published Saturday.

“If quorum is not secured in next week's session, I will think of a new way. Until now, there is no positive sign that quorum will be secured given the divisions between the major coalitions over the president,” he said.

Earlier this week, several March 8 coalition lawmakers boycotted the second round of the presidential election in Parliament, forcing Berri to reschedule the third session for Wednesday.

While the March 14 coalition has repeatedly affirmed its support for Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, the March 8 alliance is trying to pressuring their rivals to agree on a consensus candidate.

President Michel Sleiman’s six-year term ends on May 25.

“Every coalition now recognizes its weight and the weight of its rivals. They both know they are incapable of tipping the balance in favor of their candidate,” Berri said.

The speaker also said the presidential election has so far remained free of foreign intervention but warned that would change soon.

"Only then will foreign intervention surface. Maybe some people want foreign intervention because they're used to it. Until now, we are under a Lebanese umbrella but I fear that we are quickly losing it,” he said.

Berri also described MP Walid Jumblatt as the kingmaker in the country, as his support tips the balance in favor of one of the coalitions.

“I have said this before and I will say it again: he does not lose sight of things. He might change positions and move from zero to 360 degrees, but when it comes to such an important constitutional deadline, he will do the right thing," he said. "This is what he is doing today. He is the friendly foe."

 

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