(Photo credit: Middle East Online)
Lebanon’s Speaker of Parliament, Nabih Berri, said on 22 October that he is willing to launch a parliamentary dialogue session in order to agree on a new Lebanese president, after lawmakers failed for the third time to elect a new head of state just a few days ago.
The speaker affirmed that he “will not stand idly by” as the parliament continues to fail to elect a successor to President Michel Aoun, whose term expires on 31 October. He added that Lebanon could no longer tolerate the obstruction of progress.
While speaking to reporters, Berri said he would consult with the different party leaders and parliamentary blocs about launching an open dialogue in order to pave the way for a consensus to elect a president, as each session has lacked the necessary quorum to do so.
According to senior parliamentary sources, the parliament speaker is currently reviewing a number of ideas to “reshuffle the cards” and “result in a breakthrough that ends the stalemate.”
In light of this, he called for “a serious dialogue to initiate concerted efforts to save our country, and allow the parliamentary blocs to agree on a president, who can achieve parliamentary consensus or almost unanimity … because our country can no longer tolerate division.”
Berri also warned against the dangerous rhetoric spouted by some, who claim there is “no point in dialogue.”
Lately, there has been increased fear over the possibility of a presidential power vacuum, as every session to elect a president has so far failed.
Just a few days ago, the parliament failed to elect a president when many either put forth blank papers or ones with protest slogans written on them. According to electoral rules, the votes require a two-thirds quorum. However, the session saw 55 blank votes put forth.
Both previous sessions dedicated to the election of a new president, which took place on 13 October and 29 September, also failed due to the lack of a quorum.
Despite these failures within parliament, a number of major international and regional powers have already decided on their desired choices for Lebanon’s president, and have put forth their conditions.
According to a report by the Lebanese LBCI, concerning a Saudi-French diplomatic meeting in Paris in mid-September, 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.
Meanwhile, Lebanon is still awaiting the outcome of negotiations held between the Lebanese state and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to secure a bailout package to relieve the country from its severe economic crisis. So far, however, the state has failed to implement the IMF reform plan fully.
In July, Berri called for the immediate implementation of the reform policies, and vowed that he would not convene a parliamentary session for the election of a new president until this was done – despite later going back on his word.