World

Lebanon parliament delays presidential vote until October

Lebanon's tumultuous political scene suffered another setback Tuesday when the opposition led by Hezbollah boycotted a crucial session to elect a new president, thereby delaying the vote by a month.

Security high as Hezbollah boycotts crucial session

Lebanon's tumultuous political scene suffered another setback Tuesday when the opposition led by Hezbollah boycotted a crucial session to elect a new president, thereby delaying the vote by a month.

Lebanese lawmaker Antoine Ghanem, 64, was assassinated less than a week before the parliamentary vote to elect a new president. ((Hussein Malla/Associated Press))

Members of parliament aligned with the Syrian-backed Hezbollah movement refused to attend, meaning parliament was not able to reach the two-thirds quorum needed to carry out the vote.

The opposition has 57 members in the 128-member legislature, and decided not to attend the vote because they could not reach an agreement with the pro-Western government on who would succeed pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud by the time Lahoud steps down on Nov. 24.

The vote is now scheduled to happen on Oct. 23, the CBC's Nahlah Ayed reported from Lebanon on Monday.

The anti-Syrian majority is eager to install a president from its own ranks to protect the country from Syria and Iran, but the opposition wants someone to protect Hezbollah's interests, Ayed said.

Downtown Beirut was sealed off by thousands of police officers and soldiers in preparation for Tuesday's parliamentary session, in the wake of last week's assassination of pro-government lawmaker Antoine Ghanem by a car bomb.

The government blamed Damascus for the killing, accusing supporters of Syria of targeting the ruling coalition. Damascus has denied the claim.

The security dragnet by several thousand soldiers and policemen aimed to allow anti-Syrian lawmakers from the parliamentary majority to move safely from a nearby heavily guarded hotel where they had taken refuge fearing assassination.

Traffic was diverted, restaurants were closed and police patrolled the streets.

Eleven declared or undeclared candidates are running for the post, three of them members of the pro-government camp and one from the opposition.

Syria has denied any involvement in the car bombing of Ghanem on a Beirut street last Wednesday, or in seven previous assassinations since 2005, including that of former prime minister Rafik Hariri in a massive car bombing.

With files from the Associated Press