BEIRUT: Lawmakers from the March 14 coalition said Wednesday that they would boycott any legislative sessions of Parliament if there was a vacuum in the presidential post.
“Legislation should stop in the absence of a Christian president,” Lebanese Forces MP Antoine Zahra said during a Parliament session. “To preserve the legality of Parliament’s activity, lawmakers should not convene in case of presidential vacuum.”
Zahra said that MPs from other parties would join the LF lawmakers in their boycott.
Wednesday's session, chaired by Speaker Nabih Berri, was attended by 97 lawmakers.
A vacuum in the presidency looms, with dim hopes of lawmakers electing a successor to President Michel Sleiman before the May 25 end of his mandate.
For his part, Kataeb Party MP Sami Gemayel said the speaker should anticipate a possible impasse in passing a new electoral law if a new president wasn't elected by the deadline.
“After the presidential election set for May 25, we will have to find a new electoral law for the parliamentary polls due later this year,” Gemayel said. “We will not attend Parliament sessions in case of presidential vacuum, that is why Speaker Berri should be aware of a possible impasse that could obstruct the possibility of reaching a new electoral law and act prior to May 25."
Previous efforts by lawmakers last year to agree on a new vote law hit a dead end, with MPs instead extending Parliament’s term until November 2014.
Meanwhile, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon’s hearing for journalists was still being debated in Parliament as a Hezbollah lawmaker and Future MP traded remarks on the tribunal’s legality.
“It is a shame that a Lebanese journalist was left alone without the protection of the Lebanese state to defend herself in a court that we do not recognize,” Hezbollah MP Hasan Falallah said.
Future MP Ahmad Fatfat responded to Fadlallah, saying that the international tribunal’s legitimacy had been documented in the ministerial statements of various governments.
“I regret the comments of MP Fadlallah, the tribunal is part of the international law and the political agreement in the country and it reflects our commitment to international resolutions,” he said. “We will not comment on the summoning of journalists, but we reiterate our call to hand in wanted suspects [from Hezbollah] to the court."
MP Abbas Hashem, from the Change and Reform bloc, called for adjusting the agreement with the STL to prevent it from putting Lebanese journalists on trial.
The debate between MPs comes a day after Al-Jadeed TV and one of its senior editors pleaded not guilty to charges of contempt in their controversial first hearing at the STL, as the court set May 29 for the initial appearance of the Al-Akhbar newspaper’s editor-in-chief, who did not attend his hearing.
The STL is tasked with investigating the 2005 Valentine’s Day bombing that killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 21 others.
The court has indicted five members of Hezbollah in the case. Their trial will resume in absentia in June.