BEIRUT: Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea Sunday agreed on the necessity of holding the presidential election before the constitutional deadlines expires, and rejected vacuum in the post of the president.
During talks in Paris attended by former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, Hariri and Geagea decided to carry out “all the necessary and possible efforts and contacts to avert a power vacuum,” said a statement issued by Hariri’s media office.
The meeting also highlighted the need for all Lebanese lawmakers to attend election sessions.
According to the statement, Geagea and Hariri began a second round of talks after a business lunch.
Political sources told The Daily Star that in light of the impossibility of intra-Christian accord, various political groups had come to realize that a consensus candidate was the best way to avert vacuum.
The sources said that the main point being discussed within the March 14 coalition was abiding by Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai's demand to hold elections before the constitutional deadline of May 25.
The sources said that as a first step toward that goal, the March 14 leaders were seriously discussing how to convince Geagea to withdraw from the race and back a consensus candidate that all groups across the political divide could accept.
The sources said that such an agreement with Geagea would pave the way for Hariri to discuss the idea of a consensus candidate with Aoun.
As the March 14 coalition worked on a possible compromise, Speaker Nabih Berri held out hope for a last-minute breakthrough in the election, visitors quoted him as saying in a report published Sunday.
“The opportunity to elect a new president can occur at the last minute ahead of May 25,” the speaker’s visitors said in the report published by pan-Arab Al-Hayat daily.
“We just need to reach a consensus ... and we can still achieve the election of a president,” he was quoted as saying.
Berri has called another session on May 22 to vote for the new president, after Parliament failed in its fifth attempt to choose a successor to President Michel Sleiman.
A possible vacuum in the presidential post is likely unless an overnight settlement between rival political forces is achieved.
Al-Hayat said officials were intensifying contacts to avoid a vacuum and said Berri would call for more sessions before the May 25 end of Sleiman’s term.
Berri will call for Parliament sessions on May 23 and May 24 if Parliament fails to elect a new head of state on May 22, the daily said.
According to Al-Hayat’s report, Geagea met with Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal over the weekend in Paris, while holding a separate meeting with former Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
Faisal, who is currently in the French capital, is set to hold a meeting with Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt later Sunday.
Geagea was the first to announce his presidential candidacy. However, the March 14 candidate has been rejected by the March 8 forces and centrists, particularly Jumblatt.
Another Christian leader, Free Patriotic Movement MP Michel Aoun, is seeking to emerge as a “consensus” president while adopting a policy of openness to rival political parties, mainly the Future Movement.
The Al-Jarida Kuwaiti daily said that the chances of Aoun to become president had gone “very high” in the wake of the recent Saudi-Iranian rapprochement.
Hariri held five-hour talks on the presidential bid earlier this month with Aoun’s son-in-law, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil. Aoun has not announced his official candidacy.