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Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri scheduled a parliamentary session for Thursday to elect a new president, despite a lack of consensus among MPs on the next head of state. In order to be elected, presidential candidates need a two-thirds majority — 86 out of the current 128 MPs — in the first ballot and a simple majority of 65 votes in any of the subsequent voting rounds. Forces of Change MPs have in recent days attempted to reach an agreement on the next president through a series of meetings with different parliamentary blocs. Opposition MPs announced last week that potential candidates would be discussed but no names were announced. Marada leader Sleiman Frangieh, Free Patriotic Movement leader Gebran Bassil, and Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea are considered by observers to be “natural” choices for the position, while various other figures have officially announced their candidacy. “If the majority of the opposition agrees on my name for the presidency, I am ready,” Geagea said Monday. Bassil last Friday denied his candidacy while announcing his refusal to vote for Frangieh. “I am not Hezbollah's candidate, but [the] party trusts me,” the Marada head said the day before. "The [presidential] vacuum would be deadly for Lebanon,” Bassil said yesterday after meeting with Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdel-Latif Derian. Bassil’s comment reflects the much-discussed fear that no successor will be elected before the end of President Michel Aoun’s term on Oct. 31 while a caretaker cabinet remains in force.
The Higher Judicial Council met yesterday to discuss the assignment of an alternate judge in the Beirut port blast probe. The decision to appoint an alternate, who would be empowered to rule on certain matters, was met with both support and opposition as simultaneous sit-ins were staged by blast victims’ and detainees’ relatives. The HJC ended its meeting without disclosing the outcome of the discussions. “If you want to appoint a substitute judge, bring my son back to me, get him out of the ground!” a victim’s mother said at the protest outside the Beirut Courts of Justice. The HJC approved caretaker Justice Minister Henri Khoury’s proposal to appoint an additional judge in the probe earlier this month. Victims’ relatives have repeatedly protested the decision, considering it an attempt to obstruct the investigation and avail politically connected detainees. At the same time, more than a dozen suspects in the investigation remain in custody without trial for the second year in a row. “We have been oppressed, persecuted and arrested for two years,” a detainees’ relative said at Tuesday’s sit-in. Detainees’ families have also held protests to demand their relatives’ release, recently causing legal repercussions for Free Patriotic Movement MP Charbel Maroun. Several recusal requests filed against the lead investigator into the blast, judge Tarek Bitar, have impeded the probe. Delays in judicial appointments prevented a ruling in the complaints against Bitar, prompting outrage from victims’ relatives.
A decree signed by Pope Francis and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith defrocked Lebanese Maronite priests Mansour Labaky and Georges Badr, less than a year after Labaky was convicted for sexually abusing minors. “We pray for the victims of sexual abuse and for our brothers Georges and Mansour, that this decision may be their salvation,” the Assembly of Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops in Lebanon said in a statement. On Nov. 9, 2021, Labaky was sentenced in absentia by a French court to 15 years in prison for rape and sexual assault of minors. Labaky is reportedly taking refuge in Lebanon after he was convicted in 2013 for the sexual abuse of three minors. “Lebanese victims are surely many more, but they cannot speak up as long as Labaky has so much power in Lebanon,” Solange Doumic, the lawyer of three plaintiffs, told L’Orient-Le Jour.
Dozens of mourners from the Akkar governorate town of Wadi al-Jamous flocked to the Lebanon-Syria border to receive the bodies of a mother, father and four children who drowned during a migration attempt by sea last week. The six family members had been aboard a migrant boat that departed Lebanon and capsized off the coast of Syria, killing more than 100 people. Victims’ relatives mourned their deaths as the bodies of the victims identified as Lebanese or Palestinians residing in Lebanon were returned to the country. “Collective action is urgently needed to prevent families from dying at sea,” UNICEF said last Friday, while the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees told L’Orient Today that the number of irregular migrants departing from Lebanon has sharply increased due to the ongoing economic crisis.
Caretaker Health Minister Firas Abiad issued a decision yesterday exempting all travelers arriving in Lebanon from PCR or rapid COVID-19 tests, regardless of their vaccination status.
In case you missed it, here’s our must-read story from yesterday: “2022 budget: Long-overdue with last-minute amendments”
Compiled by Abbas Mahfouz
Want to get the Morning Brief by email? Click here to sign up.Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri scheduled a parliamentary session for Thursday to elect a new president, despite a lack of consensus among MPs on the next head of state. In order to be elected, presidential candidates need a two-thirds majority — 86 out of the current 128 MPs — in the first ballot and a simple majority of 65 votes...