BEIRUT: Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai Saturday urged lawmakers to secure quorum for next week’s parliamentary session and begin voting in favor of the best presidential candidate for the country’s top Christian post.
“Parliament should elect a new president whose name should gradually surface as a result of voting that starts Wednesday and as the fruit of consultations with parliamentary blocs and political parties who should also listen to the voice of the people,” Rai said in a televised address delivering Bkirki’s message for Easter.
“The eyes of the world, particularly sister states, are directed at Parliament, and we hope that MPs commit to their job, attend and vote ... and choose the best president for the country as per the current circumstances,” he added.
Speaker Nabih Berri has called on Parliament to convene Wednesday for the first round of the presidential election. The parliamentary session will likely fail to elect a president as no candidate appears ready to secure two-thirds of the MPs’ votes, and it may not achieve quorum.
Rai has said Bkirki, the seat of the Maronite Church, will support any candidate that the rival groups agree to.
Although most Christian leaders are natural candidates for the post, only Lebanese Forces head Samir Geagea and MP Robert Ghanem have announced their candidacy.
Kataeb Party leader and former President Amine Gemayel is expected to join the race next week, while Free Patriotic Movement chief Michel Aoun has said he would only run for the post as a consensus candidate.
The head of the Future bloc, former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, told Al-Mustaqbal newspaper in remarks published Saturday that his lawmakers would attend the parliamentary session.
Lebanese Forces and the Kataeb Party have also said they would attend the first voting round.
In his address, Rai also urged lawmakers to preserve the state and address people’s issues.
“We should seek to have a new beginning and get away from our old, bad habits. ... This new reality should call on politicians in Lebanon especially parliamentarians and ministers who should be dedicated to serving the people for the public good,” he said.
“The new reality reminds them of their political identity ... which requires them to preserve the state and strengthen its entity and institutions,” Rai added.
“The people and the unions have spoken repeatedly about their needs and demands which we support. We call on the politicians to protect the state and public money, implement reform and Parliament should resolve all outstanding issues in a comprehensive, serious vision,” the patriarch said.
He also called on warring factions in Syria to end the fighting and launch dialogue.
“To all the people, including priests and nuns living the tragedy of war and terrorism in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Palestine and the Holy Land, we tell them that they are always in our prayers,” he said.
“We call on factions in Syria to stop the cycle of violence ... and put an end to the tragedy in Syria and stop sending arms and money for political purposes."