Lebanon delays presidential vote

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Nabih Berri, Speaker of the Lebanese Parliament has delayed the presidential vote for an eleventh time since initial voting began on September 25.

The last vote was set for December 29 but has been rescheduled for January 12. A senior political source stated the reason for the delay was due to "complications in regional and international negotiations and the severing of domestic talks."

Emile Lahoud's presidency ended on November 23, leaving the country without a head of state for over a month. Under Lebanon's power-sharing agreement known as the National Pact, the president must be a Maronite Christian. Both the pro-Western and pro-Syrian opposition parties have agreed on a compromise candidate; armed forces chief General Michel Suleiman, however senior civil servants are restricted from serving as President for two years after stepping down.

Earlier in the week, 13 parliamentary members drafted a one-time amendment that would allow Suleiman to take the position though Berri stated the change was not necessary and cited Article 74 of the Constitution which states that "in case of a presidential vacancy... parliament meets immediately to elect a new president, which excludes the [need for] amendment".

Furthermore, both the Hezbollah opposition and majority coalition haven't agreed on final power-sharing terms. Hezbollah has demanded more power in the Cabinet and a veto on major policies while the coalition wants Suleiman to be elected first and states that the cabinet make-up is a presidential decision.