BEIRUT — "Forbidden and unacceptable."
Parliament Speaker and Amal Movement leader Nabih Berri has been very clear in his refusal to hold an open election session to choose Lebanon’s next president — a request demanded by MPs from the Forces of Change bloc who have been staging a sit-in inside the Parliament since Thursday.
Lebanon has been without a head of state since former President Michel Aoun’s term ended Oct. 31, despite 11 electoral sessions held, ostensibly, to choose his successor.
In an interview with the local daily Al Joumhouria published on Tuesday, Berri, who still has not set a new session of the House, says he will do so when he deems it appropriate.
"The demands to hold open electoral sessions, which will not allow any progress in a context of lack of agreement, show that such sessions mean the total and definitive paralysis of Parliament, which is forbidden and unacceptable," Berri told Al Joumhouria on Tuesday, brushing aside the demands of sit-in MPs Najat Saliba (Forces of Change/Chouf) and Melhem Khalaf (Forces of Change/Beirut II)
Parliament "would become an electoral college and could no longer legislate … So it is not only a blockage of the Parliament, but a blockage of the country," Berri said.
Under Lebanon’s constitution, if a presidential vacancy occurs due to death, resignation or other reasons, Parliament must meet “immediately” to elect a new head of state. The body “constitutes an electoral college” rather than a legislative assembly and must work solely “without delay or debate” to choose the president.
But Berri does not seem to hear it that way.
"Many issues must be decided quickly in the plenary session of Parliament, such as the law on capital control," he continued, before promising: "I will act soon to convene a legislative session devoted to its study and vote. This bill has been studied at length by the joint parliamentary committees and is part of the conditions required by the International Monetary Fund to help a bloodless Lebanon.”
‘Let them come and propose real candidates!’
Referring to the two MPs who are holding a sit-in inside Parliament, Berri said: "Let them come and tell us who are the real candidates they propose,” recalling that he has already convened 11 parliamentary electoral sessions.
"And I will convene others in due form, as soon as I deem it appropriate to do so," he said.
Berri finally recalled that he "previously called for dialogue," but that other political figures refused. "Unfortunately, their disagreements — those who refuse the dialogue, including the Free Patriotic Movement and the Lebanese Forces — have consequences on the whole country," said Berri, naming the two major Christian parties.
"The danger is very great, and the situation is going from bad to worse. We have reached the worst. We cannot accept the situation remaining like this,” he went on. “The presidential [vacancy] can still last a few weeks, but the country can no longer hold on at all.”
His own parliamentary group systematically casts blank ballots during the electoral sessions before leaving the sessions, alongside Hezbollah and its allies, resulting in the loss of the quorum required to continue voting.
Responding on Tuesday to Berri's criticism, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea said dialogue "is already underway between the various parties and parliamentary blocs from the first moment of the [constitutional] deadline to elect a president of the republic." He added that dialogues are taking place "directly or indirectly," and highlighted the dialogues that took place "twice" between Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Joumblatt and Hezbollah and "once" with Berri.
Geagea claimed that "many of the talks with Speaker Berri, and all of these dialogues did not lead to any results."
"As for Speaker Berri's call for successive parliamentary sessions to elect a president, especially after Oct. 31, it was more of a formality than actual calls because sessions should have remained open for deputies to consult among themselves inside Parliament from session to session until they elected a new president for the country."
BEIRUT — "Forbidden and unacceptable." Parliament Speaker and Amal Movement leader Nabih Berri has been very clear in his refusal to hold an open election session to choose Lebanon’s next president — a request demanded by MPs from the Forces of Change bloc who have been staging a sit-in inside the Parliament since Thursday.Lebanon has been without a head of state since former President...