BEIRUT, (Reuters) – Lebanon’s parliament will try to elect a new president on May 13, the speaker said on Saturday, the 19th attempt to hold a vote derailed by the worst political crisis since the 1975-90 civil war.
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri postponed the session for an 18th time on Tuesday but did not assign a new date. He instead called rival leaders to hold roundtable talks. But after pro-government leaders failed to respond to the invitation, Berri, also an opposition leader, set the new date.
A source close to him said he still hoped the majority coalition would come to the table before the session. The opposition wants a deal on a new government and a law organising next year’s general election before electing a new head of state. Majority leaders say a new president should be elected first and then chair talks between the feuding factions.
The political crisis has paralysed much of government, left the presidency vacant since November and led to bouts of lethal street violence in a country still recovering from its 15-year civil war.
Saudi Arabia and the United States lead a host of Arab and Western countries who strongly back the Beirut governing coalition, while Syria and its ally Iran support the opposition alliance led by Hezbollah.
The Lebanese rivals have agreed army chief General Michel Suleiman should fill the presidency, vacant since the term of pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud expired in November. But Suleiman’s confirmation by parliament has been derailed by a dispute over the make-up of a cabinet to be formed after his election and a parliamentary election law.
Parliament cannot convene to elect the president unless there is a deal between the rival camps that will secure a quorum for the vote.