Lebanon’s Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said on Thursday that he would call for a parliament session to elect a new president only if there were two or more “serious candidates” for the post.
“The doors of the parliament have never and will never be closed in the face of a session to elect a new president if serious candidates come forward for the presidency position”, said Berri.
Pressure from local and foreign sides has been mounting on the Speaker urging him to invite Lebanon’s MPs for a session to elect a head of state, and fill the post vacant since the end of the term of Michel Aoun in October 2022.
Berri added that he does not function under threats. “Threats will bring no benefit mainly with the Speaker”, he said, arguing that rival parties were not serious in presenting their candidates.
The pressure aggravated recently with the opposition and Christian parties choosing the former minister Jihad Azour as their candidate, to face the candidate of the Shiite duo (Amal Movement and Hezbollah) leader of the Marada Movement Sleiman Franjieh.
“Based on the Speaker’s argument, we expect him to immediately call for a session now that the opposition has officially named its candidate. Let the nominee who gets the majority of votes win”, opposition sources told Asharq Al-Awsat on condition of anonymity.
Moreover, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf has said earlier this week that the US was considering the possibility of imposing sanctions on some Lebanese officials over the failure to elect a new president.
During a Senate committee hearing on the Middle East, the top US diplomat for the region expressed the Biden Administration’s “enormous frustration” over the current situation in Lebanon.
“The elected representatives of the Lebanese people have failed to do their jobs. The Speaker of the Parliament has failed to hold a session since January to allow members to put candidates forward for the presidency, to vote on them up or down, and to get a choice to elect a president,” according to Leaf.
Opposition MP Mark Daou said in a tweet that “the Parliament Speaker is deliberately obstructing the election of a president by refraining from calling the MPs to a session, building his judgments on unconstitutional “fatwas” only to serve his own interests and to impose the candidate of the duo”.