Berri Says Presidential Elections to Remain Local Affair

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Speaker Nabih Berri stressed on Wednesday that consultations over the election of a new head of state will remain a local affair even after the constitutional deadline ends on May 25.

“I have asked ambassadors whom I have met not to interfere in the details of this matter,” Berri said in comments published in As Safir newspaper.

However, the speaker expressed fear that direct foreign intervention would increases and would becomes a de-facto after the end of President Michel Suleiman’s tenure.

The AMAL movement leader told the daily that no agreement has been reached yet over the name of the new president, pointing out that he will call for another session on Friday morning if the parliament failed to convene on Thursday due to the lack of quorum.

“If positive signs loomed at the last-minute, then I am ready to call for a session at Saturday midnight,” Berri said.

Parliament has so far failed to elect a new president over differences between the March 8 and 14 alliances.

Most of the March 8 camp’s MPs have boycotted four rounds of elections over their call for an agreement on a consensual president.

A fifth round of polls is scheduled to be held Thursday before the expiry of President Michel Suleiman’s six-year tenure.

Asked about Wednesday’s session, which is set to discuss a message sent by Suleiman to legislators regarding the presidential elections, Berri revealed that it focuses on the importance of staging the polls on time.

He considered that the message doesn’t contain any criticism for the parliament.

Suleiman’s message last week urged the parliament to act in accordance with the Constitution to avert the dangers that could arise from the failure to elect a new head of state by May 25.

There are fears that the vacuum in the country’s top Christian post would affect Lebanon’s power-sharing agreement under which the president should be a Maronite, the premier a Sunni and the speaker a Shiite.

As Safir newspaper reported that Change and Reform parliamentary bloc, which is loyal to Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun, will only attend the session to express rejection to the message.

Loyalty to the Resistance bloc will not attend as Hizbullah considers “Suleiman to be from the past,” the newspaper added.

The president’s message has only a moral value and isn’t binding, however, the speaker is obliged to read it at the parliament in accordance with the authorities given to the head of state by clause 10 of article 53 of the Constitution.

The message is the third of-its-kind handed over to the parliament since the adoption of the Taif accord.

Lebanon’s First Post-War President Elias Hrawi had urged the parliament in his message to approve civil marriage in the country and to establish the “National Authority for the abolition of political sectarianism,” and former President Emile Lahoud dispatched a message regarding the electoral law.

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