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Rai to carry on with efforts to elect a president

Rai blames Christian leaders in general for the presidential void.(The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai will continue his campaign urging Parliament to elect a president, holding all Lebanese political parties and parliamentary blocs responsible for the presidential vacuum, sources in Bkirki told The Daily Star.

The patriarch blames Christian leaders in general for the presidential void and Maronite figures in particular, as well as the Muslim parties that pushed Maronite leaders to run without consulting anyone, knowing that electing any polarizing figure would prove difficult if not impossible.

Rai knows that the Christian leaders are divided, but “we do not know the role played by the other forces that contributed to erecting obstacles to electing a new president,” the sources said.

The sources said Rai would not call for any meeting of Maronite leaders, neither in Bkirki nor at the residence of any Maronite figure. They added that he did not see any development that would make such a meeting possible or push the leaders to agree on attending the parliamentary session scheduled for Aug. 12 to elect a new president.

That being said, the political scene has witnessed some movement during the past few days over the presidential deadlock, led by former Minister Elias Murr, who visited several Christian spiritual leaders, including Metropolitan Orthodox Arch Bishop Elias Audi, in a bid to garner support for Army Chief Gen. Jean Kahwagi as a candidate.

The sources pointed out the need to break the stalemate resulting from having only two candidates, MP Michel Aoun and Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, neither of whom appear to have a realistic chance of becoming the next president. Kahwagi, on the other hand, would make a suitable candidate and does not face the same opposition as former Minister Jean Obeid.

Kahwagi’s name was put forward to Audi after it was discussed with Rai, and both are now working toward facilitating his election.

Parliamentary sources from Aoun’s Change and Reform Bloc insisted, however, that all these efforts were useless and merely an attempt to play for time. They dismissed religious leaders as sidelined players in the political game, including Rai, who, they said, had “lost his way” or perhaps thinks he can influence lawmakers to push forward his own candidate, although he denies having a preferred hopeful.

The same sources said that Rai has not always been straightforward in his political dealings, having denied he was working for an extension of Former President Michel Sleiman’s mandate but later admitting that he had.

The sources said the presidential election was still awaiting regional developments, or for the March 14 coalition to realize the impossibility of electing Geagea, or any candidate from their side.

The direction in which the region is heading can only boost the March 8 camp, and Aoun will either be president or control the biggest voting bloc, the sources said.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 02, 2014, on page 2.

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Summary

Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai will continue his campaign urging Parliament to elect a president, holding all Lebanese political parties and parliamentary blocs responsible for the presidential vacuum, sources in Bkirki told The Daily Star.

The patriarch blames Christian leaders in general for the presidential void and Maronite figures in particular, as well as the Muslim parties that pushed Maronite leaders to run without consulting anyone, knowing that electing any polarizing figure would prove difficult if not impossible.

The sources said Rai would not call for any meeting of Maronite leaders, neither in Bkirki nor at the residence of any Maronite figure.

The same sources said that Rai has not always been straightforward in his political dealings, having denied he was working for an extension of Former President Michel Sleiman's mandate but later admitting that he had.


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