BEIRUT, Lebanon, (AP) – Lebanon’s parliament elected army commander Gen. Michel Suleiman as president Sunday in a long-delayed vote that was a key step toward restoring political stability after an 18-month stalemate.
Celebratory gunfire and occasional explosions reverberated across the capital, Beirut, as news of Suleiman’s election was announced.
In the general’s hometown of Aamchit on the Mediterranean coast north of Beirut, hundreds of people broke out in cheers and dancing in the main square as they watched the vote on a giant screen.
The Hezbollah-led opposition and Western-backed government agreed last week to elect Suleiman as part of their deal to end the political crisis. The stalemate erupted into violence earlier this month, bringing the country to the brink of another civil war.
The presidential vote had been postponed 19 times since November when the last president, Emile Lahoud, left office.
Suleiman, a compromise candidate, ran unopposed. He won 118 votes of the 127 living members of the legislature, according to parliament speaker Nabih Berri.
There were six blank ballots. Two legislators voted for one-time presidential hopefuls and one was in the name “Rafik Hariri and the martyred legislators” — a reference to the slain former prime minister and five other lawmakers killed in bombings in the last three years.
After the vote, Berri was to swear in the new president.