Lebanese President Michel Sleiman’s six-year term ended yesterday without a successor taking over, as the country’s rift widened with the war in neighboring Syria.
State-owned National News Agency showed the presidential guard saluting Sleiman, 65, as he left Baabda palace overlooking Beirut, in company of his wife, Wafaa. “Our national unity is the priority, it dictates that we don’t interfere in the neighbors’ affairs,” he said in a farewell speech.
A growing disagreement with the Iran-backed, Shiite Muslim Hezbollah militia marked Sleiman’s last year in office. A former commander of the Lebanese army, he opposed Hezbollah’s participation in the war in Syria, where it’s battling groups opposed to President Bashar al-Assad.
The Constitution provides for the cabinet to take over the duties of the president in case of vacancy, and for parliament to make the election of a new president a priority.
Under Lebanon’s confessional political system, the president should be a Maronite Christian, the Prime Minister a Sunni Muslim, and the Parliament Speaker a Shiite Muslim.
The parliament has failed to elect a new president as voting sessions lacked quorum amid a boycott by MPs representing Hezbollah and Michel Aoun, its Christian ally, to prevent the election of Samir Geagea, representing the March 14 alliance opposed to Assad.
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