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"Everybody knew no president would be elected" in this first parliamentary election session, said Amal MP Ali Hassan Khalil after the session. According to him, many blank ballots are "a political indication."
"All blocs must consult and agree [on a candidate]" Hassan Khalil continued. "We still have time. We must take advantage of it before the end of the mandate" on Oct. 31.
"I think those who voted for Michel Moawad knew he would not be elected," he added.
(Photo credit: Mohammad Yassin)
Following the session, Kataeb leader Sami Gemayel — whose party voted for MP Michel Moawad — said there is no majority in Parliament and that “it is obvious no one can win this battle alone.” Gemayel also called for “unity of the opposition so we can deal with the other camp.”
From Parliament, MP Michel Moawad thanked "all the MPs who have granted [him] their confidence."
"This first parliamentary session was the beginning of the dynamics for the election of a president within the constitutional deadline. It is necessary that the president be elected on time. The first session was an important step to unify the opposition, the majority of which elected me," he said.
He added that four other MPs could have granted him their vote if they had been present, namely Fouad Makhzoumi and Neemat Frem (independent MPs), as well as Sethrida Geagea (Lebanese Forces) and Salim Sayegh (Kataeb party).
Moawad then launched into a plea for his candidacy for the presidency, saying that he represents "the choice of sovereignty and reforms."
"Choosing me is choosing to connect Lebanon to the Arab world and the international community. Without the legitimacy they can give us, there will be no rescue or support from the International Monetary Fund," he said.
He then announced that he was reaching out to the rest of the opposition, and specifically the Forces of Change MPs, and to those who voted for "Lebanon."
"If we do not unite, there will be no opportunity for rescue and reform," he said.
The eleven Forces of Change MPs did not vote for Moawad, preferring to vote for businessman Selim Eddé.
(Photo credit: Mohammad Yassin)
"I expect my name to be on the table in the next few sessions," said international development writer and Lebanese-American activist May Rihani, who received no votes today despite being an official candidate. "I'm very optimistic," she said on the local MTV channel.
"Today's session showed one thing: the ruling class is only good at slipping blank votes into the ballot box," said the head of the Lebanese Forces parliamentary group, Georges Adwan, after the session.
"Michel Moawad had the support of all opposition MPs," he said, referring to 'opposition' as the LF, Kataeb, and independents, denouncing "those who voted for Lebanon, to distinguish themselves." Several MPs had simply written "Lebanon" on their ballot.
Forces of Change MPs, aligned with the October 17 uprisings cast their ballots for Salim Eddé.
"We hope that all the oppositions will unite to elect a president of the Republic. We can do it," continued the LF MP from the Chouf.
(Photo credit: Mohammad Yassine/L'Orient Today)
Following the adjournment of the session, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said that he will schedule a new electoral session "when there is an agreement on a President."
The Parliament session is adjourned due to an incomplete quorum after a number of MPs withdrew from the session. 122 MPs were present at the session and voted in the first round.
After the first round of voting, 63 MPs cast a blank ballot, 36 voted for their colleague MP Michel Moawad (independent/North Lebanon III), 11 voted for Salim Eddé, the co-founder of Murex company and shareholder of L'Orient-Le Jour, 10 voted for "Lebanon", one voted for Mahsa Amini, the Iranian woman whose death after her arrest by the Iranian morality police caused nation-wide protests, one voted for "the line of Rachid Karami," the former Prime Minister who was assassinated in 1987.
After the first round of voting, Berri said 122 of the 128 members were present. Four MPs had officially notified of their absences. The two remaining absentees are Kataeb MP Salim Sayegh (Mount Lebanon I) and Sethrida Geagea (Lebanese Forces, North Lebanon III).
And for insight on Hezbollah's position on the election, make sure to read this article: Why Nasrallah is open to a consensus president
Curious about geopolitical responses to the Lebanese elections? Read an analysis on Saudi Arabia's position on the presidential election: Riyadh enters the fray in Lebanon’s presidential elections
Shortly before voting began, MP Farid el-Khazen asked Nabih Berri if he would schedule a successive presidential election session right after the one ongoing in case no president is elected. To be elected, a candidate needs two-thirds of the votes. Berri replied and said, "As long as a quorum is complete, the session will continue."
After writing the name of their candidate on a ballot paper and placing it in a small envelope, each MP is called by name to come and place their vote in a ballot box, located in front of the Parliament chamber in the middle of the hemicycle.
According to Nabih Berri, 120 MPs are in attendance at the parliamentary session. Among the eight absentees, four MPs have previously said they were unable to attend: Najat Aoun Saliba, Ibrahim Mneimneh (both from the Forces of Change group), Neemat Frem and Fouad Makhzoumi (independents). According to L'Orient Today's journalist inside the Parliament, Salah Hijazi, Saliba is currently traveling abroad, while Mneimneh had announced Wednesday evening that he had tested positive for COVID-19.
While waiting for the voting to start, read through historical moments in Lebanon's presidency: Charles Debbas: Lebanon’s first and last Orthodox president
The international community has been pressing for several weeks for the election of a new head of state, in parallel with the numerous reforms required by the International Monetary Fund in order to release an aid package to help lift Lebanon out of its financial crisis.
The Constitution does not mention that the presidency is reserved for a religious group. It was on the basis of the National Pact, an agreement established between the different forces in the country in 1943, at the time of independence, that the three presidencies were shared out between the main communities in Lebanon: the Lebanese presidency to a Maronite Christian, the government to a Sunni Muslim and the House to a Shia Muslim.
Thursday's session was called on Tuesday, despite there being no consensus on a candidate between various political groups, despite ongoing negotiations. Lebanon has been in a presidential election period since September 1, but the Speaker of Parliament had not convened a session since then, waiting for a consensus on a name.
The Speaker of Parliament, Nabih Berri, began the parliamentary session dedicated to the election of the Lebanese president, shortly after 11 a.m. A quorum of two-thirds of Parliament, with more than 100 members so far, was reached. The MPs must vote to choose the next head of state who will succeed Michel Aoun, whose six-year term ends on October 31.
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