The Syrian parliament Monday postponed for a day its scheduled vote on endorsing Bashar Assad to succeed his late father as president because so many MPs want to give speeches in his support, parliamentary speaker Abdel Qader Qaddoura said.
The vote was delayed because 200 of the parliament's 250 members had called for the opportunity to speak on the subject.
"The session is suspended until 11:00 a.m. (0800 GMT), and there will not be an evening session," Qaddoura said, indicating that the vote on Tuesday would come before nightfall.
Monday's session began at 6:05 p.m. (1505 GMT) and carried on until 10:30 p.m., with only 64 deputies having managed to speak and all of them supporting Bashar and paying homage to his late father.
One speaker, Mohammad Ali Nasser, lashed out at Bashar's paternal uncle, Rifaat, who has contested Bashar's political legitimacy from a comfortable exile in Spain.
"Let fugitives and plotters hold their tongues," he said. "The people have had their say: 'yes' to Bashar."
Another deputy called in Bashar "in the name of the peasants" to improve living conditions in Syria.
Qaddoura had asked in vain for deputies to keep their discourses short and that, if they could not, to abstain from speaking.
"If words are silver, silence is gold," Qaddoura said, stressing the need to move forward in filling the void at the political pinnacle created by the June 10 death of Bashar's father, Hafez.
At 8:05 p.m., after a 10-minute recess, Qaddoura seemed to have given in to the tide, saying "I think we should hear everyone."
The first deputy to speak, Munzer Mussalli, raised protests from his colleagues when he criticized a technical point in parliament's decision to lower the constitutional age for succession to the presidency.
Mussalli quickly apologized, saying his remarks were not meant to imply any disapproval of Bashar's candidacy.
Only hours after the late president Hafez Assad died on June 10, parliament amended the constitution to lower the age of presidential succession from 40 to 34, the age of Assad's son and designated successor, Bashar.
This led to a series of further steps to install Bashar in power that is culminating with parliament set to approve Tuesday the candidacy of Bashar to succeed his father and fixing a plebiscite for the people to vote.
The agenda for Monday's session was to consider the recommendations of a special committee of 70 formed Sunday, that the nomination of Bashar, 34, by the ruling Baath party be approved.
The parliament also had to set a date for a national plebiscite to confirm its decision -- DAMASCUS (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)