Lebanese parliament fails again to reelect new president

Published April 30th, 2014 - 10:44 GMT

Lawmakers once again failed on Wednesday to elect a new president as differences between the March 8 and 14 alliances led to a lack of quorum in the second parliamentary session aimed at choosing a new head of state.

While the March 14 camp held onto its candidate Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea, the Hezbollah-led March 8 alliance, except for Speaker Nabih Berri's Development and Liberation bloc, boycotted the second round of the elections over lack of consensus on one candidate.

Berri set Wednesday, May 7 for a third round of voting.

Geagea garnered the votes of 48 MPs in the first round last week. Aley MP Henri Helou, who is a centrist from the Democratic Gathering bloc, received the votes of 16 lawmakers.

One voted for Kataeb party chief ex-President Amin Gemayel and 52 MPs from the March 8 alliance cast blank ballots and then walked out of the session.

But March 8 MPs told several media outlets in parliament that there would be the needed two-thirds quorum (86) of the 128-member parliament only if there was consensus on one candidate, a reference to Free Patriotic Movement chief and head of the Change and Reform bloc MP Michel Aoun.

Al-Mustaqbal MP Ahmed Fatfat snapped back, saying “If Aoun wants to be a consensual candidate, then he should adopt the March 14 stance from Hezbollah's arsenal and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon."

Loyalty to the Resistance bloc MP Nawar al-Sahili told reporters that “there should be consensus so that there is quorum in parliament.”

Change and Reform bloc MP Nabil Nicolas also stressed that the president should be consensual.

“Our moves are aimed at reaching national consensus,” he said about the boycott.

He accused the March 14 alliance and Progressive Socialist Party chief Walid Jumblat without naming them of causing an obstruction in the parliamentary session for insisting on backing the candidacies of respectively Geagea and Helou.

Many of the March 8 MPs were in parliament in a show of support to al-Akhbar newspaper's editor-in-chief Ibrahim al-Amin and al-Jadeed TV's deputy head of news Karma al-Khayyat, who have been summoned by the STL over allegations of contempt.

MP Emile Rahme said: “We came here in support of al-Jadeed and al-Akhbar daily and not to participate in the session.”

“Our non-attendance is a constitutional right. We will exercise it until a consensual president is elected,” he said.

March 14 MP Butros Harb, who met with Berri before the speaker set a 3rd round to elect a president, hoped that the efforts being exerted to end the “vicious cycle” would lead to results.

Berri has said he would change his approach if there was another lack of quorum next week.

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