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Lebanese presidential vote postponed two weeks amid political bickering

Lebanese presidential vote postponed two weeks amid political bickering

Amid continued political wrangling between Lebanon's feuding factions, the parliament speaker postponed Friday a parliamentary session to elect a president until Jan. 12.
It was the 11th such postponement since the first attempt by Lebanon's sharply divided parliament to elect a new president in September, as the Syrian-backed opposition and the anti-Syrian parliamentary majority bloc remain deadlocked over an amendment to the constitution and the shape of a future government.
A statement issued by parliament's secretary general said that Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri decided to postpone Saturday's session to elect a new president until Saturday, Jan. 12.
The postponement was widely expected earlier Friday by both pro-government and opposition lawmakers as political bickering continued to hold up the army chief's election.
The latest crisis has topped a yearlong fierce power struggle between anti-Syrian politicians who hold a slim majority in parliament and support the Western-backed government of Prime Minister Fuad Saniora, and the opposition, led by Iran and Syria ally Hezbollah.
Parliament has failed to elect a president because the Hezbollah-led opposition has boycotted sessions, preventing a two-thirds quorum. The post has been empty since pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud's term ended Nov. 23, plunging the country into the worst political crisis since the end of the 1975-90 civil war.
Lawmakers on both sides have agreed to back Army Commander Gen. Michel Suleiman as a compromise candidate, but parliament must first amend the constitution to allow a sitting military chief to become president.
This process has been complicated by the opposition's demand for a new unity government that would give it veto power over major decisions.
The Western-backed majority has rejected the opposition's conditions, saying the shape of the next government could be discussed only after the presidential vote.
A Hezbollah lawmaker said there won't be a presidential election before the ruling coalition agreed to "a comprehensive political agreement" with the opposition, including guarantees on veto power in any new Cabinet.
"There is no possibility of holding the presidential election in Lebanon without an agreement on the formation of a national unity government," Hezbollah legislator Hussein al-Haj Hassan said in a statement.
Christian opposition lawmaker Nabil Nicola also linked the presidential election to a political accord with the pro-government faction.
"There won't be a (parliament) session tomorrow to elect a president until the usurpers of power return to their senses and to reconciliation," Nicola said in a television interview Friday.
Nicola is part of a 23-member parliamentary bloc headed by Christian opposition leader Michel Aoun and allied to Hezbollah.
Christian lawmaker Antoine Zahra, from the majority bloc, said Saturday's parliament session will not be held "because Speaker Berri and other opposition leaders have not yet received the green light from the Syrian and Iranian regimes to hold the election."
The ruling coalition has accused the opposition of obstructing the presidential vote under orders from Syria and Iran, which back Hezbollah. In turn, the opposition claims pro-government groups in the parliament majority follow U.S. policies.


Updated : 2021-05-17 13:11 GMT+08:00