President Michel Aoun used his presidential powers on Wednesday to suspend parliament's activities for one month, which consequently led to Speaker Nabih Berri's postponement of a controversial legislative session aimed at extending parliament's term.
“I have decided to suspend parliament's activities for one month in line with Article 59 of the Lebanese constitution,” Aoun said in a televised address to the nation.
It is the first time ever in Lebanon's history that a Lebanese president resorts to this article, according to media reports.
“Upon my election as president, I performed the oath of office, vowing loyalty to the constitution of the Lebanese nation and its laws and to preserve Lebanon's independence, unity and territorial integrity,” Aoun said.
“The Document of National Accord, which has become an inseparable part of the Lebanese constitution, stipulates that the parliamentary elections should take place according to a new electoral law,” he added.
The president also reminded that in his oath of office, he had vowed to “work on correcting the political representation of the Lebanese people according to the aforementioned constitutional principles.”
Aoun's move follows marathon political talks led by Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
Media reports said the president's move was coordinated in advance with Berri and Hizbullah.
“After the president used Article 59 of the constitution which gives him the right to suspend parliament's convention for a period not exceeding one month, I once again consider that this step by the president is aimed at securing more time that can be utilized to reach an agreement on a new law,” Berri said in a statement, reminding Aoun that he had always called for an electoral law based on proportional representation.
“In turn, and in line with his stance, I'm postponing tomorrow's session to May 15,” Berri added.
He also hoped that the parties will agree on a new electoral law during the coming period “to allow for a technical extension that would steer us clear from lethal vacuum that would lead Lebanon into certain suicide.”
Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi called Berri after the statement to “congratulate him on his stance,” the National News Agency said.
The Parliament Bureau had called for a Thursday legislative session that had a one-year extension of parliament's term on its agenda, which angered the Free Patriotic Movement and the Lebanese Forces who called for street protests and vowed to boycott the session.
The Kataeb Party was also expected to boycott the session and to take part in street protests together with several civil society groups.
Hizbullah and its allies have repeatedly called for an electoral law fully based on proportional representation amid reservations by al-Mustaqbal Movement and the Progressive Socialist Party, and most recently the LF.
But Mustaqbal's leader, PM Saad Hariri, has recently announced that he is willing to accept full proportional representation.
FPM chief Jebran Bassil and LF leader Samir Geagea have meanwhile called for a hybrid electoral system that mixes proportional representation with the winner-takes-all system, arguing that it grants Christians better representation.
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