Lebanon News

Maronite leaders reject compromise over presidential election

Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai receives former President Amin Gemayel, FPM leader Michel Aoun and Marada leader Suleiman Franjieh in Bkirki, Friday, March 28, 2014. (The Daily Star/Maronite Patriarchate Bkerke, HO)

BEIRUT: Maronite political leaders and the head of the Maronite Church in Lebanon reject any compromise over the presidential election and call on Speaker Nabih Berri to press ahead with a legislative session to elect Lebanon’s next head of state, a Bkirki spokesperson said Saturday.

“They agreed [on the need to] swiftly hold the first round of the election in Parliament as soon as possible and make way for a democratic electoral process without risking the possibility of failure in electing a new president within the deadline,” Walid Ghayyad said, reading a statement.

Ghayyad was referring to a meeting Friday at Bkirki chaired by Patriarch Beshara Rai that brought together MP Michel Aoun, leader of the Free Patriotic Movement, Kataeb Party head Amine Gemayel, and Marada Movement chief MP Suleiman Franjieh.

Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, who has taken part in similar meetings in the past, did not attend for security reasons but was briefed and approved the statement issued by Bkirki, Ghayyad said.

He said the participants agreed on the need for the election to be held on time.

“[They agreed on] the importance of holding the presidential election on time as part of Parliament's national duty in accordance with constitutional principles,” the statement said.

“They insisted on electing a new president who has the support of his own community first and represents the outlook of Lebanese Christians and Muslims alike and [abides by the] national pact,” it added.

The Maronite figures also agreed to continue consultations with the patriarch over the election.

“They also agreed to have a mechanism that ensures the election be held on time in accordance with [constitutional] principles and prevent the imposition of compromises that contradicts the principle of true national participation,” the statement added.

During a brief chat with reporters, Ghayyad said that Geagea, Aoun, Gemayel and Franjieh were candidates for the top Christian political post.

“This is the case until the largest political camps, the March 8 and the March 14 coalitions, put forward two names for the presidency,” he said.

In remarks published Saturday, Ghayyad said the Bkirki meeting aimed at exerting pressure on Berri to convene legislative sessions to elect a new president as soon as possible.

“[Friday’s] meeting aimed to form a Maronite pressure group for Speaker Nabih Berri to convene Parliament and call for a legislative session to elect a new president as soon as possible,” Ghayyad told Al-Joumhouria newspaper.

He said the meeting also aimed at pressuring lawmakers to attend Parliament and place their votes.

“The simple act of meeting in Bkirki is pressure enough to push in that direction,” Ghayyad added.

On March 25, Lebanon entered a two-month constitutional deadline to elect a new president in which the speaker is expected to convene legislative sessions for that purpose. According to the Constitution, Parliament is considered in session 10 days before the deadline expires on May 25.

In the previous presidential election, rival political groups had initially failed to agree on a candidate to replace former President Emile Lahoud whose term expired on Nov. 24, 2007. A year later Army commander Gen. Michel Sleiman emerged as a consensus candidate. He was elected on May 25, 2008.

Rai has urged Berri to convene legislative sessions as soon as possible to allow MPs to vote on their preferred candidates.

The patriarch’s spokesperson said Friday’s meeting did not discuss names of nominees but each leader had voiced their own opinion on the election.





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