BEIRUT: Prime Minister Tammam Salam warned that a presidential vacuum was likely to cause trouble, particularly among Christian leaders, yet assured the Lebanese that his government could fill the void.
“A flaw in the presidency could be a gateway to other flaws that could plunge the various political forces, especially Christians, into a political conflict on the presidential post,” Salam told the PSP-affiliated Al-Anbaa magazine in an interview published on its website Tuesday.
He warned of the negative consequences of the conflict, “which is something we don’t want.”
“We use these caveats to urge everyone to elect a new president,” Salam stressed. “Therefore, you have no excuse.”
In a separate remarks published by the local daily As-Safir, Salam said the Cabinet could fill the void if Parliament failed to elect a new head of state before President Michel Sleiman’s term ends on May 25.
“There is no such thing as a power vacuum. There is a vacancy in a specific post and not a vacuum,” Salam said. “A government that includes almost all political forces can fill the void in administrative positions through consensus among [ministers]."
While calling for the election of a president “acceptable to all,” Salam said the Cabinet “is present and is carrying out all its constitutional, political and security responsibilities.”
“Other state institutions are also operating normally,” he stressed.
Speaker Nabih Berri has called for a fourth electoral session Thursday to elect a new president. However, the last two sessions failed to achieve a quorum, due to an ongoing boycott by several March 8 parties, which is likely to occur again Thursday.
If MPs do not elect a new president by May 25, Salam's Cabinet will assume the powers of the presidency until the deadlock is broken. To avoid a vacancy in the country's top Christian post, Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai has suggested extending Sleiman's term, an idea rejected by Hezbollah.
The local daily Al-Liwaa quoted visitors who met Sleiman Monday as saying that the president was open to staying in office to spare the country a power vacuum.
"He doesn’t mind staying until the election of a new president in order to avoid a void, but he believes that this option is impossible,” one visitor said.