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Middle East
Lebanon general formally nominated
Presidential candidate Michel Suleiman wins backing of majority bloc in parliament.
Last Modified: 03 Dec 2007 04:10 GMT
Suleiman is seen as neutral and acceptable to the pro-Syrian opposition and Western-backed majority [AFP]
Michel Suleiman has been formally nominated for Lebanon's presidency with the backing of the majority coalition in parliament after the post fell vacant over a week ago.
 
But the constitution, which says senior public servants can only run for president two years after leaving office, must be amended before the army commander can take office.
Emile Lahoud's term expired last week, but the vote was postponed several times and parliament is now to choose his successor on Friday.
 
On Sunday Amin Gemayel, Lebanon's former president, announced Suleiman's nomination after meeting senior leaders of the ruling coalition.
He said the majority's decision "was to put an end to the collapse of the state and in order to fill the vacuum in the presidency".

 

The majority March 14 bloc on Wednesday promised to support Suleiman as a potential consensus candidate for the presidency.

 

The group also said it was willing to drop its opposition to constitutional amendments to allow Suleiman's candidacy.
 
Suleiman is seen as a neutral figure who can appeal to both the governing majority and the opposition.
 
'Consensus candidate'
 
Michel Aoun, who is allied with the Hezbollah-led opposition bloc, said on Thursday that he would support Suleiman's candidacy if a constitutional amendment could be made.
 
Nabih Berri, who is the parliament speaker and a key member of the March 8 opposition bloc, said the vote delay had been ordered to allow more "consensus" to be built on a presidential candidate.
 
Five previous sessions to elect a new president failed due to disagreements between the majority March 14 forces and the opposition March 8 bloc.

Hezbollah, which leads the opposition, had declared that it would only consider Suleiman to be a consensus candidate if Aoun accepted.

Now that Aoun has declared he would support Suleiman's candidacy, the focus will shift towards whether an agreement can be reached between the rival political factions on constitutional amendments.

Aoun and the rest of the opposition have branded the March 14 government as illegitimate since members of the opposition bloc pulled all their ministers out of the cabinet last year, citing a lack of veto rights in cabinet decisions.

"There are constitutional obstacles that should be removed because the government is illegitimate," Aoun said.

"The parliament, according also to the constitution is only an electoral body now - it cannot change the constitution."

Lingering mistrust

In previous amendments, parliament had to ratify government recommendations by a two-thirds majority.

Rula Amin, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Beirut, said that despite the agreement on Suleiman's candidacy, mistrust remains between the majority and opposition blocs.

Opposition leader Aoun says the
government is  illegitimate [AFP]

Aoun had said he was serious about the candidacy and nomination of Suleiman but he doubted that the March 14 bloc was serious, she reported.

Aoun believes this may be a ploy to waste time and blame him for the failure to elect a president, she added.

On the March 14 side, a senior source told Al Jazeera that if the opposition was serious about electing a president, all they had to do was endorse Suleiman and amend the constitution in parliament.

The presidency of Lebanon is reserved for a Maronite Christian under Lebanon's system of allocating various leadership positions to the country's different faiths.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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