Berri to turn presidential vote into dialogue session if blocs agree
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri announced Thursday that he would turn next week’s presidential election session into a parliamentary dialogue if the blocs agree to such a move.
“I will explore the opinion of all colleagues and parliamentary blocs regarding the issue of dialogue. If it turns out to be positive, I will turn next Thursday’s session into a dialogue session in parliament,” Berri said.
Lebanon's divided parliament had earlier in the day failed to elect a new president for a ninth time.
Parliament is split between supporters of the powerful Iran-backed Hezbollah and its opponents, neither of whom have a clear majority.
"Holding a session every week won't change anything," said lawmaker Alain Aoun of the Free Patriotic Movement.
Hezbollah opponent Michel Mouawad, who is seen as close to the United States, won the support of 39 MPs but fell well short of the required majority.
Mouawad's candidacy is opposed by Hezbollah, whose leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah called last month for a president ready to stand up to Washington.
Lebanon can ill afford a prolonged power vacuum as it grapples with a financial crisis dubbed by the World Bank as one of the worst in modern history, with a currency in free fall, severe electricity shortages and soaring poverty rates.
The country's caretaker government has limited powers and cannot enact the sweeping reforms demanded by international lenders to release billions of dollars in bailout loans.