BEIRUT: President Michel Sleiman urged lawmakers Saturday to secure the necessary quorum for holding the upcoming presidential election, warning against a political vacuum in the country’s top post.
“As the date of the presidential election nears, I call on political leaderships and MPs to meet their responsibilities ... by securing the necessary quorum during the Parliament session to elect the next president in order to avoid making a mistake and a presidential vacuum,” Sleiman said at Baabda Palace.
The president, whose term ends in May 2014, warned that history had shown that “a vacuum opens the door to the infiltration of security, political and constitutional chaos.”
Sleiman, who was vowed to challenge any attempt to extend his mandate, also said he was keen on abiding by the Constitution as a guarantee “not to fall into the temptation of extension or trap of a vacuum in the country’s institutions,” particularly the post of president.
His speech came during a ceremony to unveil the busts of Lebanese presidents since the end of France’s mandate of Lebanon in 1943. Twelve busts were unveiled in total.
Sleiman also warned against allowing religious and sectarian identities to gain ground on ones necessary for keeping Lebanon free of conflict.
“The awakening of religious and sectarian identities that are now dominant at the expense of the Lebanese, Arab and national identities is a recipe for permanent civil wars,” he said.
“The illusion of ... cancelling borders for the sake of a global jihad, or a sectarian front, or getting involved in foreign conflicts ... destroys to ability to forge a unifying national identity and leads to the demise of the state and nation with it,” he said.
The president has on several occasions urged Hezbollah to withdraw its fighters in Syria and stressed the need for adherence to the Baabda Declaration, a deal among political rivals to keep Lebanon distant from regional conflicts, particularly in its Arab neighbor.
Hezbollah’s military engagement in Syria, acknowledged by the party’s leader in May, has been a controversial issue within the country and drawn criticism both locally and abroad.
Lebanon has more and more felt the repercussions of the war in its neighbor since the uprising against President Bashar Assad in early 2011 began.
Sleiman reiterated Saturday Lebanon’s need to be safeguarded through a policy of “positive neutrality from [regional] axes or, to be more precise, [keeping Lebanon] neutral from conflicts translated either in siding with Arabs if they are in agreement or being neutral when they differ among themselves.”
“This was embodied in the [National] Pact of 1943 which stressed the need to keep Lebanon distant from the logic of alliances,” he added.
Sleiman urged political rivals no to repeat the mistakes of history.
“The more that the Lebanese deviated from neutrality and involved themselves in the games of [regional] axes, the more the [National] Pact and [national] coexistence were exposed to being wiped out and the dormant volcanoes erupted,” he said, listing periods of tension and conflict throughout Lebanon’s short history.
“Therefore, there should no pretext ... to legitimizing foreign interference or [engaging in] foreign projects,” he added.
Sleiman also called for addressing the issue of weapons outside the state’s authority through the resumption of the stalled National Dialogue.