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Rival Lebanese factions prepare for ‘presidential vacuum’ | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A ballot box sits on a table next to the national flag at the Lebanese Parliament in the capital Beirut on April 22, 2014. (AFP Photo)

A ballot box sits on a table next to the national flag at the Lebanese Parliament in the capital Beirut on April 22, 2014. (AFP Photo)

A ballot box sits on a table next to the national flag at the Lebanese Parliament in the capital, Beirut, on April 22, 2014. (AFP Photo)

Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—Rival political factions in Lebanon appeared to be preparing themselves for a prolonged “presidential vacuum” as the deadline to choose a successor to outgoing president Michel Suleiman fast approaches with no agreement on a successor in sight.

Hezbollah MPs, who have controversially been boycotting parliamentary sessions convened to choose a successor to Suleiman, whose term in office officially expires on Sunday, will attend “legislative” parliamentary sessions in the future, a March 8 Alliance lawmaker told Asharq Al-Awsat on Friday.

“Hezbollah lawmakers will not boycott the legislative parliamentary sessions, nor will Hezbollah-affiliated ministers resign from the cabinet,” Hezbollah-affiliated Loyalty to the Resistance bloc MP Walid Succariyeh told Asharq Al-Awsat.

“A presidential vacuum has nothing do with legislation. We will participate in all parliamentary sessions, especially those regarding civil service positions and salaries. The same thing applies to the Cabinet, which according to the constitution must assume the powers of the president and keep working” if a successor to Suleiman is not selected, he said.

Bidding farewell to staff at Lebanon’s Baabda presidential palace on Friday, Michel Suleiman acknowledged that “political obstruction has delayed many things,” but insisted that he is not afraid for the situation in the country. He will officially vacate the Baabda palace on Saturday.

Also speaking on Friday, Lebanese army chief Gen. Jean Kahwagi said that the military will remain cohesive and unified despite the presidential election crisis.

“Despite all the tragic events we are experiencing, we will stay coherent and operational . . . so that the military lives up to the aspirations and expectations that have been placed on it,” he said in a statement to troops.

“The next phase is critical. We must be vigilant, as always . . . in order to maintain Lebanese unity and stability. We will continue to work for a better future,” he added.

Parliament on Thursday failed, for the fifth time, to secure the required quorum of 86 MPs to hold a presidential election vote, with only 73 lawmakers attending the session. The two main alliances in the Lebanese parliament, March 8 and March 14, remain bitterly divided over who will take the presidency, which under Lebanon’s constitutional settlement must go to a member of the Maronite Christian sect.

Parliamentary Speaker Nabih Berri has announced that parliament will remain in open session until the required two-thirds quorum can be secured. A successful presidential candidate needs to secure a simple majority of votes once the quorum is reached.

If no new president is chosen before Suleiman’s term expires, the Cabinet, under the premiership of Tammam Salam, will assume the powers of the presidency until the situation is remedied.