BEIRUT: Speaker Nabih Berri Wednesday adjourned to May 15 the Parliament session to elect a new president, after only 73 MPs had shown up by noon, for the third time in less than a month.
Some March 8 lawmakers, including the Change and Reform bloc headed by MP Michel Aoun, boycotted the parliamentary session once again, arguing that a vote would not produce any tangible results due to a lack of agreement among rival groups.
Before lawmakers entered the General Assembly, Future Movement lawmakers launched scathing attacks against their March 8 rivals, blaming them for obstructing the democratic process to elect a president.
“A [power] vacuum will take place after May 25 ... and the government, headed by Prime Minister Tammam Salam, will assume the [powers] of the president in the coming phase,” MP Marwan Hamade told reporters at Parliament.
Future Movement MP and Minister of State for Administrative Development Nabil de Freij said the Hezbollah-led March 8 camp “is acting as if in Lebanon a president must be appointed.”
Change and Reform bloc MP Alain Aoun hit back at Future lawmakers, saying: “Offensive remarks made by some Future Movement MPs against us are not in harmony with their leader [former Prime Minister Saad Hariri].”
The March 8 move is reportedly aimed at pressuring the March 14 coalition to abandon Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea’s candidacy and agree on a consensus president.
MP Strida Geagea said the March 8 coalition should announce its own candidate rather than obstruct voting sessions.
“What happened today is unfortunate. ... They’re trying to impose a candidate of their choice or else no election will be held,” Geagea told reporters after stepping out of Parliament.
“Why is there a ghost candidate without a clear platform?” she asked, referring to Aoun, who has said he is a natural candidate for the country’s top Christian post.
LF MP Elie Keyrouz urged the speaker to follow the footsteps of a former Parliament speaker who convened a session to elect a new president with the presence of only a simple majority of lawmakers at a time when the opposition was boycotting the session.
“[Former] Speaker Sabri Hamadeh convened a Parliament session and said the quorum would be secured with only the majority and that the winner would be elected with a majority vote in the second round,” Keyrouz said during a brief news conference in Parliament.
A two-thirds quorum of the legislature’s 128 members is required for any electoral session.
Geagea, head of the Lebanese Forces, also criticized the absence of Christian MPs, saying such a decision only hurt Christians in Lebanon and preventws the election of a “Lebanese-made” president.
“The boycott is not a constitutional right but a coup against the institutions and the state,” Geagea said in a televised news conference from Maarab. “What the March 8 coalition is doing is an attempt to agree on a candidate behind closed doors and via deals, which means marginalizing the presidency and weakening the Christian” status.
“The circumstances are similar to the days of the Syrian tutelage, which forced Christians to be cautious and hesitant in their decision to be more involved in the state,” he said. “The previous election was nothing more than foreign compromises that produced a president made everywhere except in Lebanon, which is what we are trying to avoid.”
Meanwhile, Berri and leader of the Progressive Socialist Party MP Walid Jumblatt met prior to the noon session.
Berri also met with Salam, head of the Future bloc MP Fouad Siniora, former PM Najib Mikati and Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk.
Security was reduced outside Parliament ahead of the session to elect a new president for Lebanon as only a few lawmakers trickled in to vote. By noon, some 75 MPs had arrived, but not all were expected to vote.
No barbed wires were erected and no Special police forces were seen around Parliament in Downtown Beirut, unlike in the previous two voting sessions.