Lebanon president urges leaders to name successor
Lawmakers from the Western-backed March 14 alliance flock to parliament in a show of force against presidential void
Lebanon's President Michel Sleiman urged squabbling politicians on Saturday to choose a successor to his post before the end of his term as politicians from the Western-backed March 14 alliance flocked to parliament in a show of force against presidential void.
During a farewell speech marking the end of his six year term, Sleiman also said that dialogue was the only way to overcome deep divisions in the country, which is struggling to cope with political and security spillover from Syria's civil war.
Sleiman and his wife left the presidential palace at around 3 p.m., bringing the country further toward a presidential vacuum. Sleiman’s term ends May 25.
Politicians form the Hezbollah-dominated March 8 political camp have repeatedly boycotted parliament sessions aimed at naming a new successor to Sleiman, a former Lebanese army commander who was nominated as a consensus candidate to lead the country in 2008.
For a parliament to elect the president, a two-thirds quorum - or 85 of the legislature's 128 members - is needed, but none of the sessions to choose Suleiman's successor met that requirement.
According to Lebanon’s National Pact, the country’s president must be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim and the parliament speaker a Shiite Muslim.
In a show of force against a presidential void, March 14 MPs flocked to Parliament Saturday.
"We came here today to say that until the last minute we maintain our right to elect a president within the constitutional deadline," MP Mohammad Qabbani, a member in former Prime Minster Saad Hariri’s Future Movement, told a local television station.
Also joining the sit-in were Speaker Nabih Berri, a member in the March 8 bloc who has not boycotted sessions to elect a new head of state, and former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, the head of the Future parliamentary bloc.
Lebanon is deeply divided over the war raging in neighboring Syria and rival political camps have lined up behind opposing sides in that conflict. The rift over Syria is widely believed to be a reason behind the lack of agreement on a candidate to replace Sleiman.
Sleiman’s final months in power were marked by growing criticism of Hezbollah’s role in the Syrian conflict. Hezbollah recently shunned his call for National Dialogue to end lingering disputes between political rivals, particularly the militia’s arsenal.
There was no sign of any Hezbollah representatives at the farewell ceremony at Baabda Palace.
The party has demanded a future president be sympathetic to the militia's military intervention.
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