(Photo credit: Middle East Online)
Lebanon’s parliament held a session on 29 September aimed at electing a new president, during which it failed to name a candidate to serve as a replacement for current President Michel Aoun, whose term ends on 31 October.
The session, which began at 11:00 am, was initially attended by 122 MPs out of the parliament’s 128 seats. MP Michel Moawad received 36 votes, MP Salim Edde received 11 votes, while 63 others put forth blank papers.
Additionally, 10 voting papers had the word “Lebanon” written on them, while one bore the name Mahsa Amini, the young woman who died earlier this month after being detained by Iran’s morality police.
One other paper was put forth with the phrase “the path of Rashid Karami” written on it, in reference to the deceased Lebanese prime minister and popular pan-Arabist who was assassinated in 1987 by the Lebanese Forces (LF) party.
During the session, a number of MPs walked out of the parliament building, resulting in the loss of the necessary quorum to elect a president and the adjournment of the session by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri.
“If we do not agree and we do not have 128 unified votes, we will not be able to elect a President of the Republic … When I see that there is consensus, I will call for [another] session,” Berri said.
The constitutional deadline to elect a president began on 1 September and will end on 31 October, when the presidential elections are officially scheduled to be held.
Some have suggested, however, that the country may enter into a presidential power vacuum in the event of a failure among parliament to reach an agreement. According to the constitution, the election of a president requires a two-thirds majority vote by the entire 128-seat parliament.
Despite the failure of the parliamentary session, President Aoun expressed via Twitter his satisfaction with “the launch of the electoral process in the atmosphere of democracy that has always characterized the Lebanese system.”
الرئيس عون تابع وقائع الجلسة الأولى لانتخاب رئيس جديد للجمهورية التي انعقدت في مجلس النواب، مبديا ارتياحه لانطلاق مسار العملية الانتخابية في أجواء من الديمقراطية التي لطالما ميزت النظام اللبناني على مر السنوات
— Lebanese Presidency (@LBpresidency) September 29, 2022
According to a report by the Lebanese LBCI, concerning a Saudi-French diplomatic meeting in Paris earlier this month, the US, Qatar, and Egypt, as well as Lebanon’s Kataeb and LF parties, are all in favor of backing the Commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), Joseph Aoun, as president.
The report adds that Saudi Arabia has rejected the choice of Suleiman Franjieh and will only support Lebanon if its elected president is not a part of the Hezbollah-Syria alliance, a criterion that the LAF commander fits.