The Lebanese parliament on Monday failed for a sixth time in a row to elect a new president – parties linked to Hezbollah’s March 8 movement again boycotted the session and denied the body a necessary quorum:
Lebanese parliamentarians failed on Monday in their sixth attempt to elect a new president, extending the political vacuum that emerged when former President Michel Suleiman’s term ended two weeks ago.
The deadlock comes as the spillover from neighbouring Syria’s civil war has deepened Lebanon’s own longstanding divisions.
The crisis is linked to even broader regional divisions. A different Reuters report assessed that “without agreement between regional powerbrokers Saudi Arabia and Iran, who support March 14 and March 8 respectively, there is little prospect of agreement on a consensus candidate” (Iranian media for its part blandly described the crisis as a function of “the political polarization between the March 14 alliance, led by the pro-Saudi figure Saad Hariri, on the one side, and the March 8 alliance, on the other).
Politicians aligned with the anti-Hezbollah March 14 movement have for months been blasting the Iran-backed terror group for seeking to lock in a vacuum at the presidential level, undermining efforts to stabilize Lebanon’s chaotic political situation. Samir Geagea, the leader of the Lebanese Forces party, renewed the charge over the weekend:
Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea said on Saturday that some parties are seeking to “institutionalize vacuum” instead of electing a new president.
“What is happening in the country’s general political situation is high treason…it is like some parties are preparing us for a long period of vacuum,” Geagea stressed during an LF celebration.
He added that “getting rid of this vacuum is accomplished through heading to parliament and holding the presidential elections.
Hezbollah officials had at the same time expressed optimism that things were “going for the better concerning the presidential elections.” Hezbollah forces on the ground in Lebanon have in recent days attacked Sunni refugees from Syria and defied judicial authorities by conducting illegal construction in Hezbollah-dominated territory. The latter project involved establishing a security cordon of roughly 50 fighters and preventing Lebanese police from accessing the area.
[Photo: Elie Goldman / YouTube]