BEIRUT: The presidential election session failed once again Thursday over lack of quorum, as Speaker Nabih Berri reiterated that Parliament would remain in open session until the end of the week to vote for a new head of state.
Berri said that he would call Parliament into session at any time that a consensus candidate was agreed upon or a quorum of MPs was reached.
Around 73 lawmakers were present in Thursday's session. There must be 86 MPs present in the chamber before a vote can be held.
There was no sign of Hezbollah lawmakers in Parliament, but MP Michel Aoun’s Change and Reform bloc was present in the chamber, though its MPs said they would not vote.
The lack of quorum is bringing Lebanon ever closer to a presidential vacuum as President Michel Sleiman’s term ends Sunday, after lawmakers have now botched five attempts to elect Sleiman’s successor in less than a month due to a lack of quorum.
Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, following the session from his Maarab residence, called the day a “sad” one and said the other team obstructed the sessions because it was not “confident of winning.”
“The state now is obstructed and it becomes a caretaker one,” he said. “The state gets obstructed when the presidential post is void, and this is what we are facing at this stage.”
Geagea said that Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai had vows from all Christian leaders and Hezbollah that they would not boycott the election but they broke their promises.
“That is why the patriarch was very upset,” he said.
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.
LF lawmaker George Adwan said that Parliament could not legislate in light of a vacuum and warned that obstructing the presidential vote prevented the possibility of having a “strong” head of state.
“The lack of quorum would lead to vacuum in the presidential post and ultimately vacuum in the Christian component in the country, and this would cause Parliament to lose the authority to legislate, he said.
“Legislation in the case of a void in the president’s seat is allowed only if institutions’ paths are at risk,” he said. “Obstructing the election would lead to a settlement that excludes strong presidential candidates."
MP Nabil Nicolas, from Aoun’s bloc, defended the lawmakers' right to boycott the sessions, saying that Lebanon’s Constitution was “consensual” and thus MPs have the right to insist on having a consensus candidate before attending the election.
He also defended Aoun’s statement that he along with former Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah formed Lebanon’s power “trinity.”
“Aoun’s statement about triangle with Hariri, Nasrallah does not harm the Constitution or the National Pact,” he said. “Aoun only suggested that an understanding between these three leaderships would promote [Christian-Muslim] partnership.”