Lebanese parliament fails to elect president for record 26th time

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Pro-Syrian revolution March 14 alliance blames presidential vacuum on Hizbollah blocking necessary threshold

BEIRUT, Lebanon – The Lebanese parliament broke a new record in the number of sessions it has convened to elect a new president, failing for the 26th time on Wednesday to elect the country’s 13th president.

Until 1200 local time (0900GMT), the number of representatives who attended the chamber was 48 — out of the 86 MPs necessary to meet the electoral threshold.

Nabih Berri, president of the parliament, had to delay Wednesday’s session due to the constitutional threshold not being reached and called for a 27th session on August 12.

Former president Michel Suleiman’s term ended on May 25, 2014.

Since April 23, 2014, there has been an absence of political agreement in parliament on the election of a new president for 24 sessions.

A third of the 128 total number of representatives, 86 MPs, must be present to secure the election of a president in the first round.

In the event of the candidate not obtaining a third of the votes, a new election process begins that requires the candidate to obtain at least 65 votes to win.

Samir Geagea, the 62-year-old president of the Lebanese Forces party, and Henry Helou MP, the centrist candidate who is supported by the MP and Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, are the two most prominent candidates in the presidential race.

Another strong candidate, who is yet to officially throw his hat in the ring, is Michel Aoun – an ally of Hezbollah and president of the Free Patriotic Party.

Aoun was the commander of the Lebanese Army from 23 June, 1984 to 27 November, 1989.

He was also president of the transitional military government that was formed in 1988 following the presidential vacuum that Lebanon witnessed after the end of then-president Amine Gemayel’s presidential term.

The political forces in parliament are split between supporters of the March 14 Alliance, which supports the Syrian revolution, and the March 8 Alliance, which supports the Syrian regime.

This is in addition to the centrists who are led by Jumblatt and former Prime Minister Najib Mikati.

The March 14 Alliance places the blame for the presidential vacuum Lebanon has witnessed since May 25 on Hizbollah and their ally Aoun, due to them repeatedly blocking the necessary threshold being reached to elect a new president.

The Orthodox Christian Charles Debbas was the first president of Lebanon in 1926, after the creation of a new constitution during the French mandate period.

In 1943, Lebanese Muslims and Christians agreed to share power in an unwritten agreement known as the National Carter.

The agreement stipulated that a Maronite Christian is to hold the presidency for a non-renewable six-year term, with the prime minister being a Sunni Muslim and the president of the parliament being a Shia Muslim.

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