London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Lawmakers appear no closer to securing a quorum for a vote to choose Lebanon’s next president as a controversial presidential vacuum continues and rival political leaders exchange accusations.
In a speech on Saturday, March 14 Alliance presidential candidate Samir Geagea accused rivals of “treason” for disrupting the presidential vote.
“What is happening today is a treachery, because we [only] reached the end of the presidential term [without a successor] because some were disrupting the election,” the Lebanese Forces leader said in reference to March 8 Alliance lawmakers boycotting parliamentary sessions.
The Hezbollah-led March 8 Alliance boycotted all but one parliamentary session aimed at securing a successor to former president Michel Aoun, who left office on May 25.
“From May 25 until today, there is talk about how to institutionalize the vacuum rather than looking into ways to elect a new president. It is as if some people are preparing for a long-term vacuum,” Geagea said during a Lebanese Forces celebration.
“There is no pressure being exercised by any regional or international force; there are rather two parliamentary blocs that are disrupting the elections by boycotting them,” he added.
But local media on Saturday quoted Hezbollah parliamentary bloc leader Mohammad Raad saying that he was optimistic about ending the presidential vacuum in Lebanon.
“Things are going for the better concerning the presidential elections and the nature of contacts and meetings being made for them,” the Loyalty to the Resistance bloc chief said.
He also told the Lebanese people that things are “returning to normal in the governmental and parliamentary constitutional institutions.”
Despite the lack of movement on choosing a new president, Lebanon’s parliament does appear to be able continue governing, with local media reporting that a quorum has been secured for a legislative session to discuss a public sector wage hike.
Lebanon’s Daily Star newspaper reported that March 8 Alliance lawmakers, including MPs affiliated to Michel Aoun’s Change and Reform bloc, will attend a parliamentary session that aims to discuss the controversial wage hike. March 14 Alliance MPs are also expected to attend, along with members of Walid Jumblatt’s Progressive Socialist Party.
The ability for rival Lebanese factions to get together in parliament during this presidential vacuum only increases fears among observers that the post of president could remain vacant in the long term. Lebanon needs to pass a number of laws in the coming period, particularly a parliamentary election law, before polls can be held later this year.