Lebanon fails to elect new president
Lebanon's parliament failed to elect a successor to President Emile Lahoud hours before he leaves office after it was unable to convene due to an opposition boycott Friday. The failure puts the country in a 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." Berri, who belongs to the opposition, made the decision 30 minutes after the legislature failed to muster the necessary two-thirds quorum to start voting. It followed talks with leaders of the parliamentary majority.
Majority leader Saad Hariri said on Friday the simple majority vote is a constitutional option that "we haven’t resorted to because we seek consensus."
In the absence of a president, the anti-Syrian government of Prime Minister Fuad Saniora takes executive power under the constitution. On his part, Presidential Spokesman Rafiq Shlala said President Emile Lahoud would step down and leave the palace at midnight. "The postponement pushed him to study measures that he has to adopt in order to protect the security and stability of the country and in order to protect the unity of Lebanon, its land, people and institutions," he said.
Meanwhile, the military has been on alert for several days. On Friday morning, hundreds of soldiers in tanks, armored carriers and jeeps deployed along intersections leading to the Lebanese capital and around the downtown area where the parliament building is located.