BEIRUT: Calls mounted Friday to hold the presidential polls on time as signs emerged that rival politicians would not be able to agree on a compromise president by May 25, raising fears of a vacuum in the presidency.
Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai have agreed on the need for the presidential polls to be held on time, saying this was key to maintaining stability and democratic life.
Rai, currently on a visit to Rome, also agreed with Hariri during a telephone conversation Thursday night that serious consultations should be held by the rival factions to elect a new president on time in order to avert a vacuum in the country’s top Christian post by May 25.
Hariri and Rai “agreed on the necessity of holding the presidential election within the constitutional deadline and as soon as possible in a bid to preserve stability and democratic life in Lebanon,” the National News Agency reported Friday.
“The Lebanese people deserve to have a president who is capable of meeting their aspirations and fulfilling Lebanon’s role regionally and internationally,” they said.
The head of the Future Movement and Rai stressed that the period leading up to the second parliamentary session should be a time for “serious and responsible consultations among various parliamentary and political blocs over the presidential election.”
Prime Minister Tammam Salam also joined Hariri and Rai in calling for the presidential poll to be held on time, saying his Cabinet was not formed to fill a presidential vacuum.
Addressing a Cabinet meeting, the first he chaired at the Grand Serail since it was formed Feb. 15, Salam praised the first round of voting to elect a president Wednesday as a revival of democratic life.
“It’s true that the first round did not produce any results. But we hope that it is the beginning. We hope next week to reach the election of a new president,” Salam said. “I have said during the [Parliament] confidence session that we did not come to fill a vacuum.”
The Rai-Hariri conversation followed the patriarch’s meeting with Speaker Nabih Berri in Beirut to discuss the presidential election.
Following a rare visit to Berri at the latter’s residence in Ain al-Tineh, Rai called for electing a consensus president, saying “the next president should be accepted by everyone.”
Berri has called for another session on April 30 to elect a president after no candidate secured two-thirds of the vote needed to win during the first round of voting Wednesday.
Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, the March 14-backed candidate, won 48 votes against 52 blank ballots cast by lawmakers from MP Michel Aoun’s bloc and March 8 parties, while 16 lawmakers voted for MP Henry Helou from MP Walid Jumblatt’s bloc.
Former MP Ghattas Khoury, Hariri’s envoy, met Geagea at the latter’s residence in Maarab, north of Beirut, to discuss the preparations for the second round of voting.
Khoury’s “visit comes as part of constant consultations between the Future Movement and the Lebanese Forces party on the presidential election, particularly ahead of the second voting session scheduled for next Wednesday,” said a statement released by Geagea’s office.
Future MP Ammar Houri said Geagea was still the March 14 candidate for the presidency. “Our position is clear on the need to hold the presidential polls on time. We insist on having a president before May 25,” he told Al-Sharq radio station.
President Michel Sleiman, who arrived in Rome Friday, held talks with Rai, with whom he discussed the situation in Lebanon, including the presidential election.
Hezbollah’s deputy leader Sheikh Naim Qassem called for the election of a president with “a clean record” who believes in building the state.