BEIRUT: March 14 lawmakers Saturday held their rivals responsible for the presidential void and urged them to exercise their role to elect a new head of state.
“Presidential vacuum is a dangerous issue that should not be treated lightly,” said Lebanese Forces MP George Adwan who read out the March 14 statement during a news conference in Parliament. “From now on, the sole responsibility of Parliament is to elect a new president.”
Adwan said the Change and Reform bloc and March 8 groups’ boycott of previous election sessions dealt a major blow to democracy.
“The insistence on drawing a parallel between consensual democracy and [the idea] of pre-choosing a consensus president before going to the vote deals a blow to the parliamentary and political lives in Lebanon and freedom of choice,” he added.
March 14 MPs started flocking to Parliament Saturday evening – a few hours after Michel Sleiman left the Baabda Palace - in a show of force against presidential void after the assembly failed to elect a successor to Sleiman, whose term ends on May 25.
“We will not bow to pressure or blackmail,” Adwan read, “We are determined to preserve general stability and the interests of the people.”
The March 14 MPs renewed commitment to the Taif Accord, parity between Christians and Muslims, the Lebanese Constitution and the Baabda Declaration, which stipulates insulating Lebanon from the war in Syria.
"We came here today to say that until the last minute we maintain our right to elect a president within the constitutional deadline," Future MP Mohammad Qabbani told Al-Jadeed TV.
Speaker Nabih Berri and former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, the head of the Future parliamentary bloc also joined the sit-in.
Also speaking to Al-Jadeed, Telecommunications Minister Butros Harb said his alliance opposed regional deals to elect a new president.
"The March 14 also refuses to relinquish its right to elect a new president," the lawmaker added.
Initially, Kataeb MP Sami Gemayel suggested that the coalition's lawmakers stay in Parliament from 6 p.m. until midnight. His proposal was approved by the Lebanese Forces and Future lawmakers. Siniora also contacted Berri asking that the latter’s bloc joins the gathering.