BEIRUT: Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai condemned the delay in electing a president and the gridlock over the education dossier Saturday, blaming Christian leaders for their failure to agree.
“The Lebanese society is urging me to work quickly to elect a president of the republic,” he said, in a meeting with former Minister Michel Edde and head of the Maronite League Samir Abillama in Bkirki.
Rai’s visitors said the Patriarch remained firm in his stand that the continued presidential void would drag Lebanon into grave risks, blaming Christian leaders for their failure to agree over a candidate.
The Patriarch, without specifically mentioning him, reserved special condemnation for Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun over his continued boycott of Parliamentary sessions.
Lawmakers have not yet reached a consensus on a candidate to replace former President Michel Sleiman, whose six-year term ended on May 25
Michel Aoun, the head of the second largest bloc in Parliament, has been the March 8 coalition's undeclared presidential candidate and has attempted to hold contacts with his rivals in the Future Movement to convince them to vote for him in Parliament, but to no avail.
The presidential hopeful has refused to officially announce his candidacy and continues to boycott parliamentary sessions until parties on a consensus candidate.
Rai expressed skepticism over whether the controversial education dossier would reach a solution, referring to the political conundrum over appointments in the state-owned Lebanese University.
According to Rai, reform in the Lebanese University would be very difficult because of the politicization of appointments, sectarian quotas and because some contract professors lack the necessary academic qualifications.
Education Minister Elias Bou Saab’s plans to give full-time status to approximately 1,200 contract professors is contested by ministers in Cabinet, who argue that the state's finances would be burdened by the proposal.
The controversy also revolves around appointing a University council, which requires the appointment of 19 deans headed by the university president. There is a conflict between the Christian parties regarding the appointment of deans, after other sects received their shares through the names put forth by the education minister.
Shortly after, Rai met with Telecommunications Minister Boutros Harb in the Patriarch’s summer residence in Diman.
The meeting observed developments and obstacles facing the presidential elections, particularly the new road map issued by the head of the Future Movement Saad Hariri late Friday.
After the meeting, Harb said that Hariri’s new suggestion opens a new arena for solutions to the presidential stalemate through launching new consultations to search for an alternative agreement.
“This is what constitutes in my opinion a step forward launched on the basis of the permanent principles of coexistence between Lebanon’s Muslims and Christians,” said Harb.
Harb expressed his willingness to cooperate in order to finally select a presidential candidate who believes in “the principles upon which the state’s democracy was founded.”
Hariri’s new road map called for the election of a new president, the withdrawal of Hezbollah from the war in Syria and a comprehensive national plan to confront terrorism in all its forms and designations.