Lebanon's presidential election postponed again

Updated: 2007-12-29 16:34

BEIRUT -- Lebanon's parliament once again announced here Friday a postponement of its session to elect a new president scheduled on Saturday till January 12, 2008.

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri made the announcement in a statement, which is the 11th postponement of the presidential election since September 25.

Lebanon's Parliament speaker Nabih Berri, seen here in 2006, has postponed a parliament session to vote for a new president to January 12, 2008, his office announced Friday. [Xinhua]

"The situation now is no longer similar to that between September 25 and November 22," which was the regular election term of the parliament, said the statement, adding in this case, article 74 of the Lebanese constitution should be applied.

According to the article, in case the presidency became vacant, the parliament can meet to elect a new president.

The Friday postponement came as the Syrian-backed opposition and the anti-Syrian parliamentary majority bloc remain deadlocked over an amendment to the constitution and the shape of a future government.

The cabinet of Prime Minister Fouad Seniora had been insisting on meeting Friday afternoon to sign a document that should be signed by the president in spite of the strong objections by the opposition.

Berri, who is a main leader of the opposition, stressed in the statement that there is no need for the current unconstitutional and illegal government to amend the constitution.

The parliament was set to convene on Saturday for electing anew president to fill the vacant post since former President Emile Lahoud step down on November 24.

But local media have predicted that the session might not be able to convene as leaders from rival majority and opposition blocs have failed to clinch a deal on the election.

Both the majority and the opposition on Friday also separately issued their statements hinting that the presidential elections session will not take place Saturday.

"It is not likely to have a session tomorrow; it is impossible to have a session amid current political circumstances," local daily As Safir quoted Armed Forces' MP Antoine Zahra from the majority bloc as saying.

Ali Khoraise, a lawmaker from the opposition, also predicted that "there is very small hope to hold a session on Saturday" and Speaker Berri is the only person who has the prerogative to postpone parliamentary sessions.

The two camps have agreed in principle on Army Commander Gen. Michel Suleiman as a sole compromise candidate for the presidency, following a series of Arab and European mediations.

But they are still divided on how to amend the constitution to allow for his election, as well as on the shape and policies of the future government.

According to Lebanon's constitution, a senior public servant has to stand down from his post two years ahead of running for the presidency.

Lebanese ruling coalition and the opposition have been separated by a wide chasm since six of the latter's ministers resigned from Premier Fouad Seniora's government last November.

Since then, the opposition does not acknowledge the legality of the government which does not include Shiite ministers, claiming violates the constitution demand of "coexistence among Lebanese sects."

The majority, on the other hand, are accusing Syria and its allies in Lebanon of hindering the election of a president.

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