At 11 a.m. on Thursday, as has been the case in previous weeks, Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri opened a parliamentary session devoted to electing a new president. This is the eighth such meeting since the election period began on Sept. 1.
All previous sessions failed to elect a successor to Michel Aoun, whose mandate ended on October 31. The first session took place on Sept. 29.
Shortly before the meeting began, the attendance quorum of two-thirds (86 MPs out of 128) was reached, with eight officially excused for their absence.
No political consensus has been reached on a single candidate in advance of the meeting, as is customary in Lebanon, and this session is expected to be short-lived, after a first round of voting.
In the first round, the president must be elected with 86 votes (two-thirds), while an absolute majority of 65 votes is required in subsequent rounds.
However, in previous sessions, Parliament did not reach a second round of voting, as members of the Hezbollah camp and its allies withdrew after the first round was counted, leading to the loss of the quorum each time.
At each new session, Berri considers that it is again a first round and that the number of votes required is 86. However, some MPs challenge this procedure as unconstitutional.
In the first rounds so far, the Free Patriotic Movement and its allies, Hezbollah and the Amal movement, have continued to cast blank ballots because of a lack of agreement on a presidential candidate, while opposition MPs have still not been able to agree on a single candidate. Several parliamentary groups, such as the Lebanese Forces and the Progressive Socialist Party, have cast votes for Zgharta MP Michel Moawad.
Meanwhile, since Michel Aoun's presidential term ended Oct. 31, the country is faced with a double vacancy in the executive branch for the first time in its history, with Najib Mikati's cabinet serving only in a caretaker capacity since May's legislative elections.