Beirut: Lebanese political parties and groups scrambled on Tuesday with declaratory commitments to attend Wednesday’s parliament session to elect a new head of state even if the leading candidate was not poised to gather the necessary two-thirds majority to win an outright mandate.
The Free Patriotic Movement was expected to attend without its leader and putative non-declared presidential candidate, General Michel Aoun, whose members planned to cast blank votes.
Few understood the logic since Aoun’s own deputies were apparently not ready to vote for him. In what was a convoluted reasoning, March 8 alliance members did not wish to participate without a certain victory, especially since Samir Geagea from the Lebanese Forces, seemed ensured of a March 14 alliance backing. Projections gave him at least 56 or 57 votes by late Tuesday. This was not enough to win although supporters were confident that their candidate was closer to the magical 65 [half plus one] number to win in subsequent ballots.
For his part, deputy Mohammad Raad, who heads Hezbollah’s Loyalty to the Resistance bloc, insisted over the weekend that the next president of the republic must preserve the “resistance” even if the triptych people-army-resistance was buried with the Tammam Salam Government several weeks ago. The ball was in Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Junblatt’s court, with contradictory reports that he was ready to back the candidacy of his bloc member Henri Helou, while other rumors circulated that he would advance the name of Jean Obaid.
The great challenge on Wednesday was to ensure a quorum for the Parliament session to be valid, which was not guaranteed, even if everyone pledged to do their duty. It remained to be determined whether a disruption of the session would be tolerated, even if Lebanese parliamentarians were not particularly assiduous to their constitutional responsibilities, best demonstrated by an outright extension until at least this November.