Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam announced the cancellation of his country’s upcoming independence day celebrations on Friday, citing concerns about the country’s political situation, according to the Associated Press. Lebanon was due to hold official celebrations marking its 71st independence day on Saturday, an event that would have included military parades and public receptions.
This is the second official national celebration that has been canceled in recent months in the country, a fact that has some top officials dismayed. “For the second time in a row, we are forced to cancel a national celebration dear to our hearts because of a vacuum in the presidency," Lebanese army commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi said in an interview with the local Daily Star newspaper.
In August, Lebanon’s government called off its planned army day celebrations because of the continued absence of an elected president. While Lebanon’s president is largely a ceremonial figure, the country’s tense political situation has made it nearly impossible for rival factions to agree on an acceptable candidate.
Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri used the occasion to call for a renewed push to elect a new president, saying that the continued absence of a head of state was an insult to the country’s founding fathers. “It is also the biggest insult to those elite Lebanese men who achieved independence and took it as a base for the [formation] National Pact and the formula of coexistence” Hariri said, according to the Daily Star.
Lebanon has been without a president since May when the six-year term of former President Michel Suleiman ended. The conflict in neighboring Syria has charged the already fraught sectarian divisions in Lebanon’s political sphere and paralyzed the country’s government. This paralysis was on display last week when the country’s parliament agreed to forgo new parliamentary elections due to fears around Lebanon’s security situation, The decision effectively doubled representatives’ constitutionally decreed terms, according to Business Insider.