Berri Describes 1st Round as 'Practice,' Says Next Session Aimed at Electing President

Speaker Nabih Berri said the first round of the presidential elections was a “rehearsal,” adding that the parliamentary session next week would be aimed at electing the new head of state.

In remarks to As Safir daily published on Friday, Berri said: “The real session next week won't be a session (aimed at knowing) the candidates.”

“It would be the session of the president,” he said, hinting that the next head of state would be elected during the second round set to take place on Wednesday.

The first round was a “practice … and the results were already known. But we now move to the stage of the election of a president,” Berri told the newspaper.

Lawmakers must pick a replacement for President Michel Suleiman before his term expires at midnight May 24. He leaves Baabda Palace the next day.

On Wednesday, MPs failed to elect a president after no candidate secured the two-thirds of the votes needed to win and many lawmakers cast blank ballots and then left the parliament hall, leading to a lack of quorum.

Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, who was backed by the March 14 alliance, received the votes of only 48 MPs.

Sixteen lawmakers voted for Aley MP Henri Helou, one for Kataeb party chief ex-President Amin Gemayel and 52 MPs, mainly March 8 alliance members, cast blank ballots.

During the second round next Wednesday, the winning candidate will need a simple majority of 65 votes.

Berri said that he would continue to call for parliamentary sessions until a president is elected.

Asked what he would do if there was lack of quorum again, he said: “I will call for a new session every half an hour.”

“The positive (aspect) of the (first) session on Wednesday was that it succeeded in showing the size of each side and it was clear that neither side was able” to succeed, he said.



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