17:35: A car bomb has just caused a massive explosion in Sin al-Fil, a Beirut neighbourhood. Orange TV is broadcasting live images of the chaos and reports two dead.
17:50: ‘A large number of civilian casualties’ is reported (Orange TV)
18:30: The target of the explosion in the Hursh Tabit neighbourhood (Sin al-Fil in eastern Beirut) is reported to be Antoine Ghanem, Falangist MP for Baabda, east of Beirut. He survived, but has been admitted to a hospital with unspecified wounds. 6 other people (possibly including one or more of his bodyguards) were killed and twenty more injured.
18:45: Antoine Ghanem is reported dead.
This is very bad news indeed. Ghanem, who was close to both Amin Gemayyel and Walid Junblatt, was a possible candidate for March 14 in the presidential elections… …which are due to take place on the 25th September, a mere 6 days from now. The election will take place in parliament, which will be reconvened, for the first time since the beginning of the political deadlock in December last year, by speaker Nabih Berri. Tensions were already running high, with the March 14th forces sending out mixed signals to Berri’s proposal for a compromise between the two sides. It is not certain that a president will be elected at all on that day, since the two sides are still not agreed on whether the president should be elected with a 2/3 majority (as the constitution dictates and as March 8 demands) or with a simple majority of 1/2-plus-1-MP (as the constitution allows if the first method doesn’t produce a president and as March 14 demands). Berri has reportedly already announced a second parliamentary session to be held mid-october and an open session from 15th november onwards – Lahoud’s extended term runs out on 23rd November.