The pro-Syrian Emile Lahoud has been Lebanon’s president for three years longer than was originally intended. His mandate was extended, allegedly after pressure from Syria.
Prime Minister Fouad Siniora wants the next president to share his goal of keeping Lebanon free of Syrian influence.
Understandably, the pro-Syrian opposition in Lebanon does not share Siniora’s point of view, and thus far the two sides have not agreed on a candidate.
So the election process might be slated to get underway tomorrow but it is likely to be immediately put on hold, amid tension and confusion.
The government says a “yes” vote from two-thirds of those present can secure a decision.
But the opposition is demanding a quorum, and says two-thirds of the quorum must vote yes.
Hezbollah has already said its people will boycott the session.
Given the president has to be a Maronite Christian, the government wants Nassib Lahoud, a cousin of the outgoing president, to take over. He is a former ambassador to the US.
Also standing is Butros Harb, a 35-year career politician. The government likes him too.
But the pro-Syrian opposition wants the job to go to former general, Michel Aoun, who it believes will not let the country fall under Washington’s influence, and will stand up to the UN Security Council.
In the case of ongoing deadlock, two other personalities are on the sidelines. Another general, Michel Suleimane, also favoured by the opposition, and the Governor of the Bank of Lebanon Riad Salameh.
Now all eyes are on what will happen in the Lebanese parliament. Political analysts are concerned. Against the backdrop of increasing political violence they do not see a positive outcome.
“We are going to see a parliament session that is going to be largely symbolic, inaugurating a presidential election process but not really electing a president,” said analyst Ossama Safa. “After that, what happens is really open for speculation, but it looks like more violence is on the way.”