At 11:00 this morning, parliament convened at Nijmeh Square to elect the country's next head of state. The meeting was headed by House Speaker Nabih Berri and attended by Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri. Following the half-an-hour session, which did not include any speeches or statements, Army Commander General Emil Lahhoud was elected by a sweeping majority in parliament. All present 118 deputies voted for Lahhoud. Former Prime Minister deputy Omar Karameh, War Displaced Minister Walid Jumblatt and member deputies in his parliamentary bloc boycotted the elections.
Lebanese ministers, heads of syndicates, media representatives and a number of Arab and foreign parliamentarians, ambassadors, diplomats and UN officials also attended the session. The country's radio and TV stations broadcast the session live from parliament.
But the elected president was not present at the session. House Speaker Nabih Berri is then expected to accompany Lahhoud from his residence in Beirut to the presidential palace in Baabda following his election session.
Talking to reporters before the session, deputies said they would vote for Lahhoud stressing the popular and parliamentary consensus around his presidency.
Lahhoud will be the eleventh president since the country's independence, the third president after the Taef Summit, and the second army commander elected president after Army Commander Fouad Shehab.
Following parliament's session this morning, House Speaker Nabih Berri accompanied the president-elect General Emil Lahhoud on a protocol visit to the presidential palace in Baabda. Lahhoud was received in the palace courtyard by the Commander of the Presidential Guard Brig General Michel Harrouq. This was followed by a review of a guard contingent, which presented arms for him. The Director General for Presidential Protocol, Maroun Haymari, later received Lahhoud and Berri at the entrance to the palace and accompanied them into the ambassadors' hall. President Elias Al-Hrawi then received the president-elect and the speaker and congratulated Lahhoud on his upcoming presidency wishing him all success in his mission.
Since the early morning hours, the house of General Emil Lahhoud was crowded with relatives, friends, and congratulating visitors. Roads to his house were decorated with banners, victory arches, and portraits of Lahhoud in his army suit.
Upon the announcement by House Speaker Nabih Berri of Lahhoud's success, the Baabdat residence of the president-elect was filled with joy and tears. His son, Emil, his brother, Judge Nasri Lahhoud and all his relatives were seen hugging and crying.
Delegations of the city's residents flooded in huge numbers to congratulate the Lahhoud family.
Lebanese citizens across the country today welcomed the election of General Emil Lahhoud as Lebanon's next head of state. In the capital, portraits of the president-elect and banners welcoming his election as president sprung up across the various main streets in yet another sign of solidarity by the Beirutis with their upcoming president.
In the Batroun area, residents danced in the streets waving the Lebanese flags and Lahhoud's portraits.
In Baalback, Al-Hermel, and Zahle, sweets and refreshments were distributed to passers by on the occasion. Banners welcoming Lahhoud's election also filled the streets.
In another development, residents will march this evening in the villages of the Western Bekaa and Rashayya in another sign of support for Lahhoud.
Likewise in the North and the South, residents who were watching the live broadcast of the parliamentary session, expressed great joy when Lahhoud's victory was announced. Bumping car horns were heard everywhere. Some citizens were even seen dancing the famous Lebanese "Dabke" on their balconies and near their buildings.
Welcoming reactions to the election of General Emil Lahhoud as the country's next head of state continued today. Interior Minister Michel Al-Murr stressed Lahhoud's high qualifications and huge accomplishments.
Minister of Culture and Higher Education, Fawzi Hobeish expressed joy at Lahhoud's election adding that his presidency would do the country great good.
Agriculture Minister Shawki Fakhoury hoped the president-elect would continue the mission of his predecessors in rebuilding the country. He added that Lebanese deputies reflected the choice of the public opinion by electing Lahhoud.
Minister of Industry Nadim Salem said he would highly cooperate with the new president hoping Lahhoud would succeed in his mission.
Deputy Zaher Al-Khatib hoped the Lebanese would stand firm by their new president adding that War Displaced Minister Walid Jumblatt has nothing personal against Lahhoud.
Deputy Marwan Faris viewed that supporting the Lebanese Resistance in the face of the Israeli enemy was one major quality that characterized the Lebanese Army under Lahhoud's command.
For her part Deputy Nayla Moawwad said Lahhoud's election can be considered as a starting point in the renovation process in the country. And Deputy Joubran Tawk described the election day as historic.
Syrian press today expressed its belief that the upcoming presidency in Lebanon would continue the mission of the former presidency with remarkable strength and determination in a way that goes with the Lebanese people's ambitions in reconstruction, economic welfare and liberation of land. The Syrian daily Al-Baath also praised today the term of President Elias Al-Hrawi and his accomplishments in uniting the country and its citizens, building the state of law and institutions and preserving the unity of the Lebanese-Syrian tracks in the peace process.
Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri today received at the Grand Saray the annual report of the Ministry of Administrative Reform during a meeting with Minister Bshara Merhej in the presence of Acting Finance Minister Fouad Sanyoura. The report presents a detailed view on the administrative situation in Lebanon and its various problems.
The premier also held discussions with the representative of the International Red Cross Committee in Lebanon concerning the Druze families who were recently expelled from their homes in Hasbayya by Israeli troops and their allied militia in the South. The ICRC later told reporters the committee and the Lebanese government are trying to find a solution to the situation of all expelled Lebanese.
Meanwhile, Hariri is expected to visit president-elect General Emil Lahhoud this evening to congratulate him on his election.
Israel this morning shelled the valley of Mariameen and the outskirts of the village of Yater. Israeli warplanes also carried out a series of mock-air raids over the villages of the western and central sectors of the occupation zone.
For its part, the Lebanese Resistance retaliated by attacking the border outpost of Berkat Rmaysh scoring direct hits in the operation. In another development, Hizbullah today issued a statement denying reports by some foreign news agencies quoting Israeli settlers in Keryat Shmona as saying a number of Katyusha rockets fell on the Galile scoring no casualties.
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