London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Lebanon’s parliament on Wednesday once again failed to elect a new president, with MPs affiliated to the Hezbollah-led March 8 Alliance boycotting a second round of voting over a lack of agreement with the March 14 Alliance.
A quorum of two-thirds of Lebanon’s 128 Members of Parliament is required for an electoral session, but only 76 MPs attended Wednesday’s session as political divisions over who should succeed President Michel Suleiman continue to divide the members.
Lacking enough members to hold the vote, parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri adjourned the session and scheduled a third round of voting for May 7, by which time it is hoped that the rival March 8 and March 14 alliances can come to an agreement over a consensus candidate.
The first round of voting saw neither of the declared candidates, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea and Progressive Socialist Party candidate Henry Helou, secure the required two-thirds majority of votes cast. Members of the March 8 Alliance who boycotted Wednesday’s session submitted blank ballots during the first round of voting.
Change and Reform bloc MP Nabil Nicolas defended the March 8 alliance’s boycott of the parliamentary session in comments to local media on Wednesday, calling on Geagea and Helou to withdraw their candidacies. March 8’s presumptive presidential candidate is Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun, although Aoun has said that he will only run as a “consensus” candidate.
“The parties responsible for obstructing the elections are those who insist on fielding Samir Geagea and Henri Helou, [rather than] abiding by agreements made in Bkerké for all candidates who do not receive the sufficient amount of votes to withdraw,” Nicolas said.
Former prime minister Saad Al-Hariri returned to Lebanon following last week’s vote in an attempt to broker a deal between the two sides, meeting with Foreign Affairs Minister Gebran Bassil—Aoun’s son-in-law—in a bid to emerge with an agreement. Hariri, the leader of the Future Movement, is himself a member of the March 14 alliance.