BEIRUT: Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai called on lawmakers to elect a President from outside the March 8 and March 14 coalitions Sunday, arguing that a nonaligned candidate would end the political impasse.
“March 14 doesn’t want a president aligned with March 8, and March 8 doesn’t want a president aligned with March 14, therefore there is a need to move toward a president who is outside both blocs,” Rai said during Mass in Diman, adding that “there are many Maronite figures who are worthy of the presidency.”
Rai said that a president should be elected on the basis of the country’s needs as well as its internal, political and economic challenges.
“How nice it was to see Parliament convene in solidarity with Gaza and the Christians of Mosul, with all of its groups present,” Rai said, adding that it would have been “much nicer if it had convened with all its members to announce solidarity with the republic and its presidency, and elect a new president.”
Rai argued that the source of problems in Lebanon stemmed from a gross violation of the Constitution, the National Charter, and the pact of co-existence, arguing that such breaches undermined the Lebanese state and its historic role in the region.
The patriarch pointed to Article 73 of the Constitution, which requires Parliament to elect a successor to the president two months before the end of his reign, and Article 74, that calls for an immediate election if one is not selected before the end of his predecessor’s term.
Rai lauded Lebanon’s mixed religious heritage, arguing that co-existence has been a feature of the country’s history for generations.
“For 2,000 years Christians have produced the culture of the region through the Gospel, and 1,400 years of Islamic culture have also been produced, and interacted with the mutual philosophy of coexistence,” said Rai. “This made the face of Lebanon's message that of creating a history of moderation away from extremism and fundamentalism.”
Rai said that some countries were trying to feed fundamentalist movements and organizations for terrorist purposes.
The patriarch cited the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria, which has declared a caliphate in territory it controls straddling the two states, as one of the fundamentalist groups responsible for reordering the region’s moral and spiritual values.
“We announce our solidarity with our fellow Christians and invite them to stay in their own land and to maintain their faith. Their presence in the Arab Middle East is an urgent need, because they are reviving their communities and their human values, spreading the culture of love, brotherhood and pluralism, reinforcing freedom and human rights,” he said.
The leaders of the four leading Christian parties, Sleiman Frangieh, Samir Geagea, Michel Aoun and Amine Gemayel, are the four top Maronite leaders vying for the presidency.
While Geagea, leader of the Lebanese Forces, is the March 14 coalition’s declared candidate for the presidency, Aoun, head of the Free Patriotic Movement, has been viewed as the Hezbollah-led March 8 alliance’s undeclared candidate.
But in the absence of an agreement beforehand between the March 8 and March 14 parties on a consensus candidate, the political impasse is likely to continue, with all attempted votes failing for lack of quorum in the face of a boycott by lawmakers from Aoun’s bloc and its March 8 allies.