Beirut, Lebanon – Lebanon’s parliament has failed to elect a president for the second time after narrowly missing the required quorum.
Wednesday’s 12pm parliamentary session was foiled when only 76 of 128 members of parliament entered the chambers. A two-thirds quorum – 86 MPs – is required for the vote to take place, and in the second round of voting, a candidate must obtain a simple majority (65 votes) to be declared president.
Speaker Nabih Berri set May 7 as the next date for lawmakers to try to elect a president for the third time. The term for current President Michel Suleiman, ends on May 25.
Although only 76 MPs entered the General Assembly Hall, a total of 83 MPs showed up to Nejmeh Square where the parliament building is located. A number of them arrived to express solidarity with two journalists from Al-Jadeed television station and Al-Akhbar newspaper.
The journalists have been accused of contempt and obstruction of justice by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, an international court, for publishing a list of witnesses in the trial against those accused in the 2005 assassination of Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri.
The different political blocs have been unable to reach a consensus on a presidential candidate. During the first round of voting, which took place last week, Lebanese Forces Party leader Samir Geagea received 48 votes and MP Henry Helou got 16, while 52 blank ballots were cast.
MP Michel Aoun, leader of the Free Patriotic Movement, is seen as the leading contender for the post. However, he may fail to receive enough votes unless his candidacy is endorsed by Saad al-Hariri, Lebanon’s former prime minister and founder of the rival Future Movement.
Hariri reportedly met with Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, Aoun’s son-in-law, in Paris on Tuesday. Bassil told Al-Hayat newspaper that the meeting was positive and that nominating Aoun depends on reaching an agreement with Hariri.
The Future Movement is part of the March 14 alliance, which has thrown its support behind Geagea, a former warlord who was sentenced to death for being behind the 1987 killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rashid Karami, but was later pardoned in 2005 as part of a wider national reconciliation bid coinciding with the withdrawal of Syrian military troops from Lebanon.