Babylon & Beyond

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Presidential deadlock in Lebanon

November 20, 2007 | 10:48 am

Deadlocked Lebanese lawmakers yet again today delayed a parliamentary session to choose a new president to replace the departing Emile Lahoud, whose term expires at the stroke of midnight Friday.

They were supposed to meet Wednesday. But news agencies reported today that the meeting has been pushed back until Friday, just hours before the hours the deadline.

Blogger Jeha, writing at Pajamas Media, thinks there will likely be another delay.

The smart money is not betting on anything happening any time soon. Nor is anyone expecting much for the time being. The fact remains that the current crop of leaders, many of whom are “born again” Lebanese, have been accustomed to getting marching orders from elsewhere.

Indeed many Lebanese feel utter contempt toward their political class, who dress well but can't seem to govern, as shown in this animated video featuring Lebanon's political cast of characters, from Michel Auon to Walid Jumblatt.

Still many fear the political bickering could quickly descend into the kind of violence that plagued Lebanon during the 1975-1990 civil war.

Security around the capital tightened today as army chief of staff Michel Sleiman, another potential presidential contender, called upon his forces to safeguard the nation.

The uncertainty has upended the lives of ordinary Lebanese. The Lebanese blog Independence '05 posted this description:

Many people are delaying big purchases such as apartments or cars till after the elections. Others are postponing payments of monthly bills or installments till the end of the month. One case I've heard is postponing a wedding and buying furniture for their house...And of course, many have canceled going out this week, many rumors of staying home is safer, embassies sending message to their people to avoid going out all this week.

And as if the political bad news wasn't enough, a ferocious hail storm pummeled Lebanon today, setting off tiny unexploded ordnance left by Israeli cluster bomb attacks during last summer's war between Israel and Hezbollah, according to Reuters.

— Borzou Daragahi in Beirut