Deadline Passes and still no Lebanese President

Another deadline, another delay for the Lebanese government who are finding it extremely difficult to reach a consensus on who should be the next president:

Lebanon's parliament failed to convene due to an opposition boycott in its latest attempt Friday to elect a successor to President Emile Lahoud just hours before he is set to leave office, putting the country in a potentially explosive political vacuum.

Speaker Nabih Berri said in a statement that the session was postponed for a week until Nov. 30 to give more time "for additional consultations to reach a consensus on electing a president."

The opposition-aligned Berri made the decision 30 minutes after the legislature failed to muster the necessary two-thirds quorum to begin voting. It followed consultations with leaders of the parliamentary majority. Scheduling another session in a week as talks between the two sides continue will, in all likelihood, defuse for now any potential street confrontations.
While the situation is tense, the army has moved into the streets to forestall any outbreak of violence:
Army troops in tanks, armored personnel carriers and jeeps set up checkpoints along road intersections leading to the capital and the suburbs and around downtown Beirut where Parliament building is located, sealing off large areas to motorists.

The military and police were put on alert for the past several days with leaves canceled and permits to civilians to bear arms put on hold. Security at key government buildings was also reinforced.

The failure to elect a president could plunge the nation into further turmoil. Nevertheless, the feuding camps have been exerting efforts to prevent a further deterioration as it appeared that each side was waiting for the other to make the first step.

The pan-Arab newspaper Al Hayat said Army Commander Gen. Michel Suleiman had briefed both Prime Minister Fouad Saniora and House Speaker Nabih Berri of the security measures to be enforced in the absence of a vote by midnight Friday and in light of what outgoing President Emile Lahoud would say in his farewell message to the Lebanese.
Pro-Syrian President Lahoud will resign in a few hours, thus heading off more potential trouble. It was thought that Lahoud might try and hang on to the office until a successor was chosen - a clear violation of the constitution.

Despite the absense of a quorum in Parliament, the pro-democracy majority could have elected a president anyway. Such a turn of events would almost certainly have precipitated a crisis as the Hezb'allah led opposition has threatened to set up their own government in opposition to the March 14th forces if the majority failed to achieve consensus on who the next president should be.

The chaos plays directly into Syria's hands which leads many observers to believe that Damascus is standing in the way of the two sides coming to an agreement. As long as the political situation in Lebanon is unsettled, it is unlikely that the United Nations will begin proeedings in the Hariri Tribunal - an international court that will try the perpetrators of the assassination of ex Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. 

Most observers believe that ultimate responsibility for the assassination goes to the highest levels of the Syrian government - something Damascus obviously wants to keep from coming out. Hence, as long as there is chaos in Lebanon, the Syrian regime benefits.

Speaker Nabi Berri of the opposition Amal Party has re-scheduled the vote in Parliament for President for November 30. It is unlikely, given recent history, that anything will have changed by then and the Parliamentary majority, led by the martyred ex-Prime Minister's son Said Hariri, will have to decide to risk civil war in order to elect a president or continue the attempt to seek consensus from an opposition that apparently doesn't want to reach any agreement at all.
Another deadline, another delay for the Lebanese government who are finding it extremely difficult to reach a consensus on who should be the next president:

Lebanon's parliament failed to convene due to an opposition boycott in its latest attempt Friday to elect a successor to President Emile Lahoud just hours before he is set to leave office, putting the country in a potentially explosive political vacuum.

Speaker Nabih Berri said in a statement that the session was postponed for a week until Nov. 30 to give more time "for additional consultations to reach a consensus on electing a president."

The opposition-aligned Berri made the decision 30 minutes after the legislature failed to muster the necessary two-thirds quorum to begin voting. It followed consultations with leaders of the parliamentary majority. Scheduling another session in a week as talks between the two sides continue will, in all likelihood, defuse for now any potential street confrontations.
While the situation is tense, the army has moved into the streets to forestall any outbreak of violence:
Army troops in tanks, armored personnel carriers and jeeps set up checkpoints along road intersections leading to the capital and the suburbs and around downtown Beirut where Parliament building is located, sealing off large areas to motorists.

The military and police were put on alert for the past several days with leaves canceled and permits to civilians to bear arms put on hold. Security at key government buildings was also reinforced.

The failure to elect a president could plunge the nation into further turmoil. Nevertheless, the feuding camps have been exerting efforts to prevent a further deterioration as it appeared that each side was waiting for the other to make the first step.

The pan-Arab newspaper Al Hayat said Army Commander Gen. Michel Suleiman had briefed both Prime Minister Fouad Saniora and House Speaker Nabih Berri of the security measures to be enforced in the absence of a vote by midnight Friday and in light of what outgoing President Emile Lahoud would say in his farewell message to the Lebanese.
Pro-Syrian President Lahoud will resign in a few hours, thus heading off more potential trouble. It was thought that Lahoud might try and hang on to the office until a successor was chosen - a clear violation of the constitution.

Despite the absense of a quorum in Parliament, the pro-democracy majority could have elected a president anyway. Such a turn of events would almost certainly have precipitated a crisis as the Hezb'allah led opposition has threatened to set up their own government in opposition to the March 14th forces if the majority failed to achieve consensus on who the next president should be.

The chaos plays directly into Syria's hands which leads many observers to believe that Damascus is standing in the way of the two sides coming to an agreement. As long as the political situation in Lebanon is unsettled, it is unlikely that the United Nations will begin proeedings in the Hariri Tribunal - an international court that will try the perpetrators of the assassination of ex Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. 

Most observers believe that ultimate responsibility for the assassination goes to the highest levels of the Syrian government - something Damascus obviously wants to keep from coming out. Hence, as long as there is chaos in Lebanon, the Syrian regime benefits.

Speaker Nabi Berri of the opposition Amal Party has re-scheduled the vote in Parliament for President for November 30. It is unlikely, given recent history, that anything will have changed by then and the Parliamentary majority, led by the martyred ex-Prime Minister's son Said Hariri, will have to decide to risk civil war in order to elect a president or continue the attempt to seek consensus from an opposition that apparently doesn't want to reach any agreement at all.