Lahoud Swims in a Sea of Insults
MPs Atef Majdalani and Serge Torsarkissian at the protest tonight
"Swim Away Lahoud," is the most polite slogan that has been chanted and written in Martyr's square in the last two days.
Protesters are hurling insults at the President, whose favourite sport is swimming, live on Future TV and on LBC. And because such attacks are illegal, the Lebanese judiciary has issued arrest warrants against the protestors.
A number of MPs signed a petition claiming that they had voted for Lahoud's presidential extension in 2004 under Syrian threats and a popular petition demanding the resignation of the President is being signed in Martyr's square this evening.
MP Serge Torsarkissian, from the Hariri parliamentary bloc, said today that "Lahoud made us [the Lebanese people] hate swimming and politics". Last night a protestor said that if Lahoud should quit the presidency and start a swimming school, he would definitely not join it. Others chanted: "we want revenge from Lahoud and Bashar".
President Emile Lahoud is the target of a political and media campaign aiming to oust him. Up to this moment, Hezbollah and other pro-Syrian parties are the only ones clearly defending Lahoud.
Indeed, Syria and its allies consider Lahoud as a line of defence against the implementation of UN resolution 1559 which calls for the dismantling of armed militias in clear reference to Hezbollah and other Palestinian groups.
In the next couple of weeks, Walid Jumblat, Saad Hariri, Samir Geagea and their allies hope either to force Lahoud to resign or for Parliament to declare the 2004 constitutional extension to the Presidency illegal. But in order for such a bill to pass, two thirds of Parliament must vote for it.
The March 14 coalition are betting on Nabih Berri, the speaker of the Parliament and a Hezbollah ally, to dissent from his coalition and call on his MPs to vote in favour of this resolution.
The Maronite Patriarch does not object to Lahoud's removal as long as it does not lead to violent street protests, while General Michel Aoun, who is calling for a national dialogue on the Presidency, will only accept Lahoud's ouster if he is the next President.
So far, however, Riyadh Salameh, the Governor of the Central Bank, is the most likely candidate to the post in case Lahoud leaves.