BEIRUT: Lebanon’s MPs are set to meet on Thursday to elect a new president.
Parliamentary Speaker Nabih Berri set the session for Thursday a day after parliament approved the 2022 budget, one of the mandatory conditions for the preliminary agreement signed between Lebanon and the International Monetary Fund.
Parliament will turn into an electoral body until a new president is elected to succeed Michel Aoun, whose term ends on Oct. 31.
Does this mean that Berri has suspended legislation in parliament, especially the reforms required by the IMF, until after the election of a new president?
Berri pledged to set a date to elect a new president after securing political consensus on a potential candidate.
Issam Ismail, a professor of constitutional law at the Lebanese University, believes that Berri properly implemented the constitutional text that obliges him to call parliament to convene during September.
“If we reach Sept. 30 and Berri does not set a session to elect a new president, he loses the right to do so in October.”
Ismail said: “Preventing parliament from exercising its legislative power is only applicable during the session designated to elect a president; in other sessions, parliament is not considered an electoral body. This was adopted during the period of the election of a successor to former presidents Emile Lahoud and Michel Suleiman.”
He added: “The Lebanese constitution did not specify a quorum for the session to elect a president. It was assumed that no MP would fail this constitutional duty by not attending. However, some MPs were absent in previous election sessions and violated their constitutional duty, so parliament decided to adopt a two-thirds quorum in all voting sessions.”
During his meeting with Sunni MPs on Saturday, Lebanon’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdel Latif Derian said the new president needs to abide by the Taif Agreement and Lebanon’s Arab identity, which was welcomed by the Christian parties in Lebanon.
On Tuesday, Derian received the head of the Free Patriotic Movement, MP Gebran Bassil, and a delegation from the movement.
After the meeting, Bassil said: “We heard a patriotic discourse from Dar Al-Fatwa, especially in terms of adhering to the constitution and the Taif Agreement, which we also adhere to and are committed to implementing in terms of decentralization, in particular, the establishment of a senate, and the abolition of sectarianism.”
The Taif Agreement was reached in September 1989 to provide the basis for an end to the civil war and a return to political normalcy in Lebanon.
Bassil said the FPM rejects Lebanon’s interference in the affairs of Arab countries or any other countries, and seeks to preserve Lebanon’s sovereignty and independence, its Arab position, and to live in peace.
The FPM insists on having “a president who enjoys the required political credentials and a popular representation of the Lebanese people,” he added.