World Bulletin / News Desk
For the third time in a row, Lebanese parliamentarians on Wednesday failed to elect a new president to succeed Michel Suleiman due to boycotts that prevented a required two-thirds quorum.
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri has scheduled another parliamentary session for May 15 in which a fourth attempt to choose a new president will be made.
Suleiman's presidential term is set to end on May 25.
Prior to Wednesday's session, 73 MPs had been present at parliament headquarters in Beirut. But only 69 of the assembly's 128 members attended the session, falling short of the quorum by nine MPs, as deputies representing the Shiite Hezbollah group and the March 8 alliance both boycotted the session.
The boycotting coalition has not officially backed either of the two candidates to have expressed an interest in assuming top office, namely Lebanese Forces (LF) leader Samir Geagea and MP Henri Helou.
"The continuing lack of quorum indicates that a president will not be elected before May 25, and therefore there will be a vacuum," one prominent political source who asked not to be named said.
"While the issue may move at a faster pace after May 25, agreeing on a president could take time, perhaps months."
Over the past two weeks, parliament has been unable to complete the process of choosing a new president.
At the first voting session in late April, no candidate was able to garner the minimum two-thirds majority needed to win the post.
Geagea – fielded by the Western-backed, anti-Damascus March 14 bloc – won 48 of 124 votes, while Helou – who is backed by Druze leader Walid Jumblatt – only clinched 16 votes.
At least 52 of the ballots were left blank, meanwhile, mostly by members of the Hezbollah-led March 8 bloc.
One vote went to former president Amine Gemayel, who has not announced an intention to run, while seven ballots were declared invalid.
Six of the latter bore the names of slain political figures, the assassinations of whom during Lebanon's civil war (1975-1990) Geagea has long been accused of complicity in.
Failure to secure the two-thirds quorum needed for the vote thwarted the second voting session.
Speaking to Lebanese radio, lawmaker Marwan Hamadeh said Salam's government would assume presidential functions in the event Suleiman left office before a replacement was found.
"There's nothing new in the presidential election file unless something dramatic and unexpected happens," he said. "The vacuum will happen after May 25."
Lebanon badly needs leadership to cope with the fallout of the three-year-old Syrian war on security and the economy, as well as deal with perennial issues like electricity outages, decaying infrastructure and public sector wage disputes.
"The call to elect a president is as great as Lebanon's needs," Maronite church leaders said in a statement after a monthly meeting. "We are worried by talk by some lawmakers about a vacuum. It as if they are announcing their own deficiencies."
The parliamentary vote comes as Syria continues to fuel sectarian tension inside Lebanon, with Hezbollah's ongoing military involvement in Syria drawing condemnation from local Sunni groups.Last Mod: 07 Mayıs 2014, 15:56