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ICC Note: Another title might be “Will Lebanon’s Presidential Race Cause Lebanon to Unravel?

Lebanon ‘s Fate Hinges on Presidential Race

By Agence France Presse (AFP-Agence France Presse )
Sylvie Groult

Lebanon (for the full story, go to The Daily Star) Lebanon is gearing up for a high-stakes bout of political wrangling ahead of presidential polls which optimists hope can resolve the country’s political impasse, but pessimists fear will only further cement divisions. The president, who comes from the Maronite Christian community in line with the sectarian distribution of political powers, is due to be elected by Parliament between September 25 and November 24, when the mandate of the current head of state Emile Lahoud ends.

A successful vote requires the 128-seat house to muster the necessary quorum of 86 MPs but this will require a compromise, as the ruling coalition of Western-backed Prime Minister Fouad Siniora has just 69 MPs.

However, any deal seems unlikely given the political paralysis that has bedeviled the country since the resignation of six pro-Syrian ministers from Siniora’s government in November.

This raises the specter of Lebanon ending the year without a head of state – a dangerous vacuum which many fear could further destabilize the country.

Syria and Iran have ties to the opposition, particularly Hizbullah, while Siniora’s government is backed by the West and the Sunni Muslim powerhouse of Saudi Arabia .