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A President for Lebanon? Yes, No, Maybe…What For?

Thank you, with my love, I shall stay with you.

With this tweet, Lebanese President Michel Sleiman marked the end of his term in office on May 25, 2014. The political blog Moulahazat provided an interesting and detailed assessment of his term in office.

“(…) 36% of Michel Sleiman’s time in power lacked a functioning executive power. Needless to say that the Lebanese parliament cannot legislate with no government in power, and cannot meet in summer, which means that during Sleiman’s 6 years, the parliament had a  maximum of 3 years to pass laws and amendments (around 50% of the time).”

Beirut Report notes billboards on the highway praising Sleiman, and also choses to reflect on his legacy:

“(…) how will Sleiman be remembered? Will it be for his tweet calling for civil marriage or his criticism and very public disagreements with Lebanon's most powerful force, Hezbollah? Or will it be his de-facto pardon of indie rock star who was arrested for mentioning his name in a song? Meanwhile other tweeps and journalists still face criminal charges for insulting him.”

Anyway, all that is the past. What everyone is dying to know is what comes next? Lebanon entered a predictable and predicted presidential vacuum following Parliament's failure to elect a new president within the constitutional time frame but this isn't the first time Baabda (Lebanese presidential palace) finds itself empty. Previous president Michel Lahoud had also left with no announced successor in 2008 and the country went for six whole months without a head of state.

Today, the Lebanese are taking the repeat vacuum with a well-balanced mix of cynicism, humour and philosophy. Unfazed sometimes, but perhaps it is because years of disappointment have taught the Lebanese not to expect much of local politics.

This would explain @DyalaBadran's reality check:

Or even @Georges_Sassine's approach:

But we can always count on @KarlreMarks to find the bright side:

However, it is in all seriousness that blogger Elias Muhanna wonders if Lebanon needs a president at all:

“More relevant than the matter of who the next president will be is the question of whether Lebanon needs a president at all, a quarter century after the Ta’if Agreement. Consider the President’s powers and duties (articles 49-63 of the Lebanese Constitution). Apart from serving as “the symbol of the nation’s unity” and safeguarding “the constitution and Lebanon’s independence, unity, and territorial integrity,” the President of the Republic does very little without the say-so of the Council of Ministers. He or she accredits ambassadors and promulgates laws, but doesn’t have a vote in cabinet, cannot select a Prime Minister without binding consultations with the Parliament, cannot dissolve Parliament without permission of the Council of Ministers, and cannot effectively block a law from being passed.”

Two weeks later, there's still no end in sight for the political deadlock and with simply too many problems on the agenda, the presidential vacuum is already yesterday's news and World Cup discussions are slowly taking over:

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