Lebanon News

Killing time until foreign powers pick president

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri gestures during a parliament session in Beirut.(File/The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri is playing a pivotal role by giving time to those involved in selecting a consensual presidential candidate, according to political sources following up on the election.

Berri is at the helm of the process and is both a representative of the March 8 group and someone who must work in the nation’s best interest based on his reading of the situation.

Berri is working in this regard with his “ally” and friend Progressive Socialist party leader Walid Jumblatt. The communication line between the two remains active either through direct contacts conducted out of the eye of the media, or through their delegations, headed by Health Minister Wael Abu Faour and Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil respectively.

In addition to the Berri-Jumblatt understanding, Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai met with former Prime Minister Saad Hariri in Paris Wednesday.

The Future leader listened to Rai’s concerns regarding the possibility of a lack of consensus over the next president and the occurrence of a presidential vacuum that may last for weeks or even months, especially as several factors have increased the chance that the various Lebanese political groups will not come to an agreement.

Also of concern is Western states’ preoccupation with other regional and international files, including Iran’s nuclear program and improving Saudi-Iranian relations as well as the conflict between the United States and Russia concerning the situation in Ukraine and the Middle East.

According to the sources, world powers are all in agreement over how to protect Lebanon’s stability. However, they are increasingly expressing their frustration over efforts to involve them in supporting one personality over another or supporting a list of candidates. On the contrary, most diplomats are stressing during their discussions with Lebanese politicians that no such list exists and that the only thing that matters to them is holding the election on time according to the applicable rules.

It is clear that the ongoing discussions and communications between the various political parties and parliamentary blocs in Lebanon and abroad are nothing more than an attempt to kill time until there is a regional and international consensus.

It is also noticeable that the current national and international discussions stipulate that any nominee should have two characteristics: First, his election should not lead to shaking the security and stability of the country; second, he should be able to play the role of the fireman between the Sunnis and Shiites to quell the sectarian conflict in the region.

Observers expect an outcome from negotiations between the U.S. and France, in coordination with regional brokers Saudi Arabia and Iran, regarding electing a Lebanese president that all political sides agree on. However, this will only come after the various parties drop their candidates for a more unifying and fair choice. The list of candidates is already being narrowed in the belief that the circumstances that led to the formation of a Cabinet after an 11-month deadlock are the same ones that will lead to the election of a consensus candidate.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 01, 2014, on page 3.




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