BEIRUT — At 11 a.m. on Thursday, Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri opened a parliamentary session devoted to electing a new president. This is the tenth such meeting since the election period began on Sept. 1.
All previous sessions have failed to elect a successor to Michel Aoun, whose mandate ended on Oct. 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 13 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, like previous sessions, this one is expected to be short-lived and will likely conclude after a first round of voting.
This session should be the last of 2022, the Parliament Speaker announced last Thursday.
Berri intended to convert the meeting of the Parliament into a dialogue table in order to find a compromise on the presidential election, but the initiative fell through. This was due to the reluctance of the main Christian parties — both the Lebanese Forces and the Free Patriotic Movement — which showed little enthusiasm for his approach.
In the first round, a candidate needs 86 votes (a two-thirds majority) to be deemed elected, while an absolute majority of 65 votes is required in subsequent voting rounds.
However, in previous sessions, Parliament did not reach a second round of voting, as members of the Hezbollah camp and their allies withdrew after the first round vote count, 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, saying that after the initial voting round at the electoral session on Sept. 29 all subsequent rounds of voting should require just a simple majority for a candidate to secure election.
Meanwhile, since Michel Aoun's presidential term ended Oct. 31, the country has been faced with a dual executive power vacuum for the first time in its history, with Najib Mikati's cabinet serving only in a caretaker capacity since it assumed the status following May's legislative elections.
After a meeting with Berri, Deputy Speaker Elias Bou Saab said Wednesday that "there will be no dialogue" regarding the presidential election before the end of the year. Their meeting came as Bou Saab had just returned from a visit to Qatar, where he met with several officials.
Over the weekend, the commander-in-chief of the Lebanese Army, General Joseph Aoun, was also received by several high-ranking officials in Doha. A trip seen as a "political message that his candidacy for the presidency has the support of Qatar," an Arab diplomat told L'Orient-Le Jour.