Berri Says Fifth Round of Elections Open-Ended until May 25

Speaker Nabih Berri said Thursday's parliamentary session to elect a new head of state will be open-ended until the expiry of President Michel Suleiman's term on May 25.

“The session will be open-ended until there is quorum,” Berri told lawmakers after he adjourned a legislative session on Wednesday aimed at discussing a plea made by Suleiman to resolve the presidential deadlock.

“I will call for a parliamentary session on the first day of vacuum if there is a vacancy in the president's post,” Berri told lawmakers at the start of the session.

“There is no need to specify certain dates for sessions because I am ready to invite (MPs) whenever I see that there would be quorum,” he said.

For his part, Suleiman hailed Berri and parliament for performing their constitutional role in discussing his message, stressing the need that lawmakers continue on attending parliament sessions until a president is elected.

He had urged lawmakers in his message last week to act in accordance with the Constitution to elect a new head of state.

He said the MPs should act in conformity with the laws to meet Constitutional deadlines “to avoid the dangers that could result from the failure to elect a president for the Lebanese Republic by May 25.”

There are fears that the vacuum in the country's top Christian post would affect Lebanon's power-sharing agreement under which the president should be a Maronite, the premier a Sunni and the speaker a Shiite.

Hizbullah and most of its allies in the March 8 alliance have been boycotting parliamentary sessions - four so far- aimed at electing a new president over claims that there should be a prior agreement on a candidate.

But Change and Reform bloc lawmakers attended Wednesday's session, resulting in a quorum of 65 MPs, the state-run National News Agency reported.

A fifth round of polls is set to take place on Thursday.

Ahead of Wednesday's session, Berri met with Prime Minister Tammam Salam, who briefed him on the results of his two-day official visit to Saudi Arabia.

The speaker also held separate talks with Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblat and Education Minister Elias Bou Saab.



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