Berri Refuses to Challenge Extension of Parliament’s Term: Polls to Facilitate Election of New President

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Speaker Nabih Berri stressed on Friday that he will accept the extension of the parliament’s term if a new head of state was elected, ruling out that he would challenge the decision to prolong the legislature’s tenure.

“I would accept the extension of the parliament’s term only if a serious and real agreement to elect a consensual president preceded it,” Berri said in comments published in local newspapers.

He reiterated that he and his Development and Liberation bloc would vote against the extension of the parliament’s term but will not challenge it if it was adopted by the majority.

On Mustaqbal Movement leader MP Saad Hariri’s latest statement, the head of AMAL movement considered that their stances meet on the importance of swiftly electing a new president.

He described Hariri’s stance as a “good-will gesture,” as staging the parliamentary polls without pressing the election of a new president would widen the gap and increase the vacuum at state posts.

But Berri pointed out that lawmakers should assume their responsibilities and seek a settlement on the name of the new president before the parliamentary polls.

On Wednesday, Former premier Hariri announced that al-Mustaqbal bloc will not take part in parliamentary polls before the election of a new president, denying the presence of any “deal” to extend the current parliament’s mandate.

President Michel Suleiman’s six-year term ended in May.

“Everyone submitted their candidacies for the parliamentary elections, including those who support the extension of the legislature’s term,” Berri noted.

“Once we are done with the polls we should swiftly elect a new speaker and then elect a new head of state.”

“This is the only way to avert vacuum,” he remarked.

Several political forces had hinted that a second extension of the parliament’s term is looming on the horizon while the government has failed so far to form the committee that is supposed to oversee the elections.

The speaker wondered why would MPs seek to extend the parliament’s tenure if they are not meeting or legislating.

Parliament has been unable to legislate over the boycott of several blocs, including the March 14 alliance’s lawmakers and Change and Reform MPs. The paralysis is linked to the presidential deadlock.

The majority of the March 8 alliance’s MPs have been causing a lack of quorum in sessions aimed at electing a president, leaving the country without a head of state.

Berri described Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat’s tour on party leaders to press the election of a new head of state as a way to achieve a breakthrough in the political impasse.

“He fears, like me, that extending the parliament mandate would expand vacuum,” the speaker said.

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