The International Support Group for Lebanon (ISGL) called on Lebanon’s leaders to work intensively to ensure the election of a new president without delay, while highlighting the need for the current government to remain functional.
In a statement issued Monday on behalf of the ISGL following deliberations, U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Derek Plumbly said that the gathering regretted the failure of the Lebanese Parliament to elect a president within the timeframe set by the constitution.
Lebanon's President Michel Sleiman urged squabbling politicians on Saturday to choose a successor to his post before the end of his term as politicians from the Western-backed March 14 alliance flocked to parliament in a show of force against presidential void.
During a farewell speech marking the end of his six year term, Sleiman also said that dialogue was the only way to overcome deep divisions in the country, which is struggling to cope with political and security spillover from Syria's civil war.
The Cabinet must be allowed to handle the country’s affairs in the case of a presidential vacuum, MP Michel Musa, of Speaker Nabih Berri's Development and Liberation bloc, said.
“The Cabinet would handle the country’s affairs in the coming stage, and no one should obstruct the work of the government especially as we have important and urgent files to address,” Musa told the Voice of Lebanon radio station.
The Amal MP said the country was likely to fall into a vacuum but added that efforts should focus on electing a new president as soon as possible.
Lack of a breakthrough in Lebanon’s presidential election was a foregone conclusion ahead of a parliamentary vote scheduled for Thursday with a majority of March 8 lawmakers pledging to boycott the session again.
The lack of quorum will bring Lebanon ever closer to presidential vacuum as President Michel Sleiman’s term ends Sunday.
Although the end of Lebanese President Michel Suleiman’s term on May 25 is looming ever nearer, the country’s fractious political parties have been unable to agree on a successor. As on many other issues, Lebanon’s two main political movements, the rival March 8 and March 14 alliances, have been unable to agree on a single candidate, with each backing a different figure to be Lebanon’s next head of state.
Parliament will meet Wednesday to discuss President Michel Sleiman’s appeal to lawmakers to elect a new president amid growing fears that MPs will again fail to choose a successor in time and avert the presidential vacuum hanging over Lebanon.
Sleiman, whose six-year mandate expires on May 25, last week sent a letter to Parliament urging lawmakers to elect a new president to avoid the risks that would ensue if a successor is not elected this week.
The letter stresses the importance of holding the presidential election on schedule.
Speaker Nabih Berri Wednesday said he was ready to call for a parliamentary session to elect a new president just as soon as quorum was met.
The speaker’s remarks came during a legislative session to discuss a letter President Michel Sleiman sent to the legislative branch, in which he urged lawmakers to avoid a vacuum in the country’s top Christian post by electing a new president on time.
A gathering of Maronite organizations Wednesday warned lawmakers against disrupting the vote and failing to elect a new president on time, saying such moves only jeopardized the top Christian seat.
The remarks came after a number of Maronite organizations held a meeting in Bkirki chaired by Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai, who briefed the attendees on developments and his discussions with political leaders about the coming presidential election.
Lebanese Forces leader and presidential hopeful Samir Geagea, said Wednesday he discussed with Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai a means to avoid a presidential vacuum, saying a solution must be found to avert vacancy.
“I briefed Rai on my meetings in Paris and we discussed the presidential election and means to avoid a vacuum,” Geagea told reporters after his meeting in Bkirki, the seat of the Maronite patriarchate.
Lawmakers from Michel Aoun’s Change and Reform parliamentary bloc will not attend Thursday’s Parliament session to elect a president in the absence of an agreement over a conscenus candidate.
“If circumstances remain the same by Thursday, then MPs from our bloc will not show up [at the election session],” said former Minister Salim Jreissati after attending the weekly meeting of Aoun’s bloc at the latters Rabieh residence, north of Beirut.
On May 15, the fourth parliamentary session was held to elect the president of Lebanon. For the fourth consecutive time, the session was postponed due to the lack of a quorum. A new session was scheduled for May 22, and this could be the last or next-to-last session before the constitutionally specified deadline for electing a president ends at midnight on May 24.
Speaker of the People's Assembly Mohammad Jihad al-Laham called upon the Syrian people from all political and social stripes to take part in the presidential vote scheduled for June 3.
"Syria is in need of every vote of every honest Syrian in the ballot boxes as well as on the field, at factories, schools, universities and in all domains of life," said Laham during a parliament's session on Sunday.
Unless there is a sudden and major development in internal or external political positions before May 25, Lebanon will have a presidential vacancy for the third time in its modern history. Repeated attempts to hold a parliamentary session to elect a new president have failed.
“This election is the responsibility of the Christians in the first degree, and their large responsibility towards their country,” Asiri said, speaking to reporters following talks with Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai in Bkirki.
Prime Minister Tammam Salam warned against a “presidential vacuum” in Lebanon after lawmakers on Wednesday failed for the third time to elect a successor to President Michel Suleiman, whose term in office ends on May 25.
Some Lebanese lawmakers are staying away from parliament on days scheduled to elect a president as the actual President Michel Sleiman’s six-year term in office is set to expire on May 25. The ongoing absenteeism has forced Speaker Nabih Berrito of the parliament to postpone the elections for the third time in a row. The parliament needs two-thirds of its 128 members to reach a quorum. Lebanon exercises a power-sharing formula to promote religious cohesion but there are fears that the stalemate could get out of hands.