BEIRUT (AP) — Lebanon’s president called on squabbling politicians on Saturday to choose a successor to his post, to avoid a political vacuum which would be exacerbated by the fallout from the civil war in neighboring Syria.
President Michel Suleiman spoke during a farewell speech to end his six-year term. Lebanese politicians haven’t been able to agree on a successor to Suleiman, whose term ends Sunday.
Lebanon is accustomed to lurching political crisis, and the country’s unity government will administer until a new president is selected.
The country went for months without a president before Suleiman, a former army commander, was elected in 2008.
But the absence of a president is chiefly a setback for Lebanon’s Christian community, whose influence has significantly waned since the country’s 1975-90 war.
It also erodes Lebanon’s fragile institutions that keep the country of Christian and Muslim minority sects together.
In Lebanon’s power-sharing system, the president must be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim and the parliament speaker a Shiite Muslim.
A two-thirds quorum, or 85 of the legislature’s 128 members, is required for an electoral session to elect the president.
The elections are also influenced by international and regional actors backing rival factions, and presidents are elected only after securing the necessary regional support and consensus among the political camps.
But consensus has been near impossible. The Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah has been fighting onside of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces, while most Sunnis broadly support the armed uprising to overturn his rule.
Hezbollah-loyal politicians have demanded a future president be sympathetic to the militia’s military intervention.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.