BEIRUT: A Hezbollah official said his party cannot go for consensus as long as the March 14 coalition’s position is maneuvering, in an apparent response to former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora’s appeal for a compromise on a presidential candidate.
“Some of the Lebanese consider the presidential void as an opportunity to achieve more gains and get a tighter grip on power, this is so far from national responsibility,” Hezbollah official Sheikh Nabil Qaouk said during a commemoration ceremony in south Lebanon.
“The electoral maneuvers of the March 14 coalition have kept the body of consensus without a head, we cannot go for consensus while the March 14 is still undecided [on whether they really want consensus],” he said.
Siniora, who heads the Future Movement parliamentary bloc, called earlier this week on the March 8 alliance to come forward with their candidate or work with the March 14 to find a compromise candidate that would be wise enough to lead the country and start dialogue among the country’s various components.
Meanwhile, Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun dismissed Sunday reports that he would travel to Paris next week to meet with former Prime Minister Saad Hariri for talks over the presidential election.
“What some media has reported regarding trips I am intending on taking soon is completely inaccurate,” Aoun said in a tweet.
The reports came as political contacts are expected to intensify next week in a bid to break the impasse over the presidential election, with Speaker Nabih Berri denying he is obstructing the election of a new head of state.
Meanwhile, Marada leader Sleiman Frangieh said that the presidential stalemate is “political” and not related to differences among the Christian parties, adding that Maronite groups are entitled to their own political stances and opinions.
“The Christian reconciliation took place two years ago under the auspices of Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai and the problem today is political,” Frangieh told the Future television over the weekend.
“We support the patriarch in all his initiatives but we consider at the same time that the Maronite leaderships have the democratic right to have their own political stances,” he said.
“I still haven’t seen the content of the initiative put forward by the patriarch ... let us wait to see the results of his efforts,” Frangieh said.
The Marada leader also said he is pessimistic that a possible meeting between Aoun and Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea would lead to a breakthrough on the presidential election.
“They both have a different political atmosphere from the other and it is only natural, as the democratic game suggests, that each of them tries to take the presidency for his side,” he said.
For his part, Rai reiterated his criticism to the “negligence of lawmakers and their failure to carry out their constitutional tasks.”
“The Lebanese people reject their lawmakers’ failure to elect a new president and the ongoing violation of the constitution and their dignities,” Rai said during his Sunday sermon.
“The Lebanese people are sick and tired of such political practices that go against all democratic norms,” he added.
Health Minister Wael Abu Faour reiterated the call for a consensus on a president while warning against keeping Lebanon on the brink in light of ongoing terrorism in the region.
“It is time for this dancing around the edges to stop, we should get on the right track [to confront] terrorism before we get new shocks like the shock of ISIS,” he said in reference to the recent takeover of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria of large territories in Iraq.
“It is also time to get over provocative choices and reach a consensus president, that is why our bloc [National Struggle Front] suggested a candidate that meets all [consensus] conditions and we hope for his endorsement," he said, referring to presidential candidate MP Henri Helou.
Abu Faour also described his recent meeting with Hariri as “excellent” and said his group appreciates the former prime minister’s efforts to find a breakthrough in the presidential stalemate.
Rai Saturday launched another call on rival political camps to take initiative and agree on a new president to protect Lebanon from the consequences of the Iraqi and Syrian crises.
Also Saturday, Berri slammed his critics highlighting that he was exerting every effort possible to reach a compromise over the necessity of holding the presidential election without further delay.
“A news agency that has launched 24/7 campaigns against Speaker Berri just claimed that the speaker was obstructing the presidential election in Lebanon,” Berri’s media office said in a statement. “It’s obvious that Speaker Nabih Berri has called for near weekly sessions to elect a new president and has exerted every effort possible to reach a compromise over the necessity of holding the presidential election without further delay."
The statement added that the parties supported by the news agency that is launching attacks against Berri have missed all the election sessions without cause. The statement did not name the outlet.
Lawmakers have now botched six attempts since April 23 to elect a successor to former President Michel Sleiman, whose six-year term ended on May 25, with the last five failing due to lack of the two-thirds quorum of the legislature’s 128 members.
Berri scheduled the next session to elect the new president for June 18.
For his part, Change and Reform bloc MP Alain Aoun said that Hariri was convinced that Aoun was a consensus candidate, adding that the head of the Future Movement “needed more time to convince his allies.”
Aoun admitted that dialogue over the presidential election between the FPM and the Future Movement has “yet to mature.”
“But we are counting on a common vision for the future,” he said.
Hariri, who spoke by telephone with MP Walid Jumblatt earlier this week, is set to meet the Progressive Socialist Party leader in Paris at a later date.