Presidential impasse paralyses Lebanese politics

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Presidential impasse paralyses Lebanese politics

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Lebanon is facing a week of political paralysis, after a last-minute vote for a new President was postponed for a fifth time. Current head of state Emile Lahoud steps down at midnight. With no successor in sight, Lebanon is facing a political vacuum, and the potential for renewed sectarian violence.

The constitution says that if no Presidential candidate emerges, power will be automatically transferred to the anti-Syrian government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. However, the pro-Syrian President has refused to do that, and may hand power to the army instead.

European foreign ministers, led by France’s Bernard Kouchner, tried all week to break the deadlock, but finally admitted defeat last night. Security was stepped up on the streets of Beirut ahead of today’s deadline. The army is one of the few Lebanese institutions which still enjoys widespread public support.