Lebanese Parliament Adjourns Without Electing a President

Rick Moran
Political woes continue in Lebanon as the parliament adjourned yesterday, failing to come to a consensus on who the next president should be.

House Speaker Nabih Berri adjourned Tuesday's crucial parliamentary session to elect a new president till October 23.

"The session has been adjourned till October 23 at 10:00 am," deputy Speaker Farid Makari announced.

The announcement was made by a parliamentary official in the chamber after the bell rang three times to call the lawmakers into session. In a clear message to the opposition, MPs from the ruling majority said if there was no quorum and no vote on Tuesday, they would go ahead and elect a president with a simple majority when the next session convenes.

"We are taking part in today's session to preserve our right to vote in a subsequent session with a simple majority," MP Elias Atallah told AFP before entering parliament. "Our presence means that the first session has been convened, and the next session (there will be a vote) with a simple majority," MP Samir Frangieh said.
The Lebanese president is elected by parliament. The first vote, a candidate must receive 2/3 majority in order to be victorious. But in each subsequent vote, a simple majority will elect the new leader.

The situation is extremely delicate with Berri advancing a plan he hopes will be acceptable to pro-government forces that would see a consensus candidate elected. He has been negotiating on and off with Saad Hariri, head of the March 14th parliamentary forces in order to stave off disaster.

If no consensus candidate can be agreed upon and if the March 14th forces carry out their plan to elect a president anyway, it is believed that the Hezb'allah led opposition will refuse to recognize the new president and may even set up some kind of alternate government themselves. It is easy to see where such an arrangement could lead to disaster.

But the parliamentary forces have a month to work things out. It may be that the threat of civil war can overcome their differences.
Political woes continue in Lebanon as the parliament adjourned yesterday, failing to come to a consensus on who the next president should be.

House Speaker Nabih Berri adjourned Tuesday's crucial parliamentary session to elect a new president till October 23.

"The session has been adjourned till October 23 at 10:00 am," deputy Speaker Farid Makari announced.

The announcement was made by a parliamentary official in the chamber after the bell rang three times to call the lawmakers into session. In a clear message to the opposition, MPs from the ruling majority said if there was no quorum and no vote on Tuesday, they would go ahead and elect a president with a simple majority when the next session convenes.

"We are taking part in today's session to preserve our right to vote in a subsequent session with a simple majority," MP Elias Atallah told AFP before entering parliament. "Our presence means that the first session has been convened, and the next session (there will be a vote) with a simple majority," MP Samir Frangieh said.
The Lebanese president is elected by parliament. The first vote, a candidate must receive 2/3 majority in order to be victorious. But in each subsequent vote, a simple majority will elect the new leader.

The situation is extremely delicate with Berri advancing a plan he hopes will be acceptable to pro-government forces that would see a consensus candidate elected. He has been negotiating on and off with Saad Hariri, head of the March 14th parliamentary forces in order to stave off disaster.

If no consensus candidate can be agreed upon and if the March 14th forces carry out their plan to elect a president anyway, it is believed that the Hezb'allah led opposition will refuse to recognize the new president and may even set up some kind of alternate government themselves. It is easy to see where such an arrangement could lead to disaster.

But the parliamentary forces have a month to work things out. It may be that the threat of civil war can overcome their differences.