BEIRUT: Lawmakers started arriving in Parliament Thursday morning, as futility shadowed the parliamentary vote for a new president with a majority of March 8 lawmakers expected to boycott the session again.
Around 70 lawmakers were present around Parliament at the scheduled noon start of the session, however it is not expected that all of the MPs will go into the actual session. There must be 86 MPs present in the chamber before a vote can be held.
A platform was set up outside of Parliament for lawmakers to criticize those MPs boycotting the session.
The coffee shop across from Parliament was crowded with foreign tourists, oblivious to the growing presidential crisis nearby.
The lack of quorum will bring Lebanon ever closer to a presidential vacuum as President Michel Sleiman’s term ends Sunday. Thursday's scheduled session comes after lawmakers have botched four attempts to elect Sleiman’s successor in less than a month due to a lack of quorum. Speaker Nabih Berri has said that from this point, he will call Parliament into session at anytime that a quorum is reached.
In the absence of an agreement between the Future Movement-led March 14 and the Hezbollah-led March 8 coalitions over a consensus candidate to break the impasse, the session is likely to fail.
Hezbollah and the Free Patriotic Movement have been boycotting the sessions and said they would attend a vote for a new president only if a consensus candidate was agreed on beforehand.
Aoun is set to hold a news conference Monday, the day the country enters vacuum if a president is not elected, to announce his stance over the presidential election.
Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, following the session from his Maarab residence, criticized Aoun’s MPs for boycotting the vote and said his March 14 coalition has no backup solution to the failure of Parliament in electing a new head of state.
“If MP Michel Aoun and his bloc’s lawmakers had attended Parliament’s sessions, we would have had a first class president by now,” he said. “As long as the other group is maintaining its position over the presidential election, March 14 has no Plan B."
Future MP Hadi Hobeish responded to Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun’s comments that he along with former Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah formed Lebanon’s power “trinity.”
“What Aoun spoke about is a gun [to the head of the country] and not a trinity,” Hobeish said outside of Parliament.
Aoun has recently mended his ties with the Future Movement, dispatching his son-in-law, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, to hold talks with Hariri over the presidential polls.
Aoun is reportedly waiting for Hariri’s green light to announce his candidacy for the country’s top post but positive signs have yet to emerge from the Future Movement.
“Aoun is proposing himself as a consensus candidate, it is not Hariri suggesting so,” Hobeish said. “It is not Hariri alone who makes the decision but the entire groups within the March 14 coalition.”
However, MP Nabil Nicolas, from Aoun’s bloc, said that his group was still pinning hopes on Hariri’s Future bloc.
Nicolas said lawmakers from the Change and Reform bloc were going to Parliament's headquarters although maintaining their boycott of the session "to show they are holding on to the election of a new president."
Prior to the session, Berri held talks with former Prime Ministers Fouad Siniora and Najib Mikati and premier Tammam Salam.
“Fortifying Lebanon politically starts with achieving the presidential election ... something which requires raising the level of national responsibility to start a new era,” Berri said in a statement marking Liberation Day, which falls May 25.