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Lebanese lawmakers fail again to elect president

May 15, 2014

BEIRUT (AP) — The Lebanese parliament on Thursday failed in its fourth attempt in a month’s time to hold a session to elect the country’s new president, a move that heralds a presidential vacuum in the tiny Arab nation.

As in previous sessions, the vote could not be held as lawmakers, many of them allied with the militant Hezbollah group, boycotted the voting.

With no quorum in the house, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri adjourned the session and scheduled a fifth round of voting for May 22.

President Michel Suleiman’s term expires May 25 but the country’s feuding politicians have been unable to agree on a compromise candidate to replace him. With Suleiman’s departure looming, it’s looking increasingly unlikely that lawmakers will be able to choose a replacement for the country’s top Christian post in time.

It wouldn’t be the first time there is a presidential vacuum in Lebanon, a perpetually divided country of 4.5 million people, with 18 religious sects and a sectarian-based power-sharing system. The country went for months without a president before Suleiman, a former army commander, was elected in 2008.

Lebanon is deeply split along sectarian and ideological lines and divisions have worsened because of the civil war raging next door in Syria. The country’s elections are traditionally influenced by international and regional actors and presidents get elected only after securing the necessary regional support and consensus among Lebanon’s political camps.

With the lack of a consensus candidate, a Hezbollah-led alliance of lawmakers has boycotted parliament sessions to choose a president. A two-thirds quorum of the legislature’s 128 members is required for an electoral session. Only 73 lawmakers showed up on Thursday.

According to Lebanon’s power-sharing system, the president must be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim and the parliament speaker a Shiite Muslim.

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