Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun will press for holding parliamentary elections on schedule if former Prime Minister Saad Hariri does not support his candidacy for the presidency, or if a new president is not elected before September, FPM parliamentary sources told The Daily Star.
“If a new president is not elected before September, Gen. Aoun will not accept under any circumstances the extension of Parliament’s mandate,” the sources said.
They added that Aoun, the March 8 alliance’s undeclared candidate for the presidency, insisted that the government of Prime Minister Tammam Salam under the laws in force should call for holding parliamentary elections scheduled in November either on the basis of a new electoral law or under the modified 1960 rules that were agreed as part of the 2008 Doha Accord.
Lawmakers last year extended Parliament’s mandate by 17 months after failing to endorse a new electoral law.
Aoun, the head of the parliamentary Change and Reform bloc, will not wait for a response from Hariri regarding the Future Movement’s support for him as a consensus candidate for the presidency longer than the legal deadline under which the government would be obliged to call for parliamentary elections in September, the sources said.
Aoun has been in contact with Hariri through his son-in-law Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil over the Future Movement’s possible support for the FPM leader as a consensus presidential candidate, the sources said. Aoun had debated the possibility of parliamentary elections with his allies but it was not clear whether it was also discussed with Hariri by way of the ongoing negotiations between the two sides, the sources added.
Aoun, according to the sources, would seek to convince all influential political parties in the country of the need to conduct elections on time. The MP feels a fresh extension of Parliament’s mandate would be difficult to pass, especially as some parliamentary blocs, such as the Kataeb Party, which had endorsed the previous extension, now insist that the forthcoming parliamentary polls be held as scheduled in November.
It was noteworthy that Aoun’s suggestion that new parliamentary elections be held if a new president is not elected before September has been ignored by all political parties. Neither Aoun’s March 8 allies, nor the March 14 parties have commented on this proposal.
Political sources said the rival parties’ indifference toward Aoun’s proposal meant that the idea of holding parliamentary elections and thus for a newly elected Parliament to pick a successor to former President Michel Sleiman was not yet ripe.
In order for Aoun’s proposal to see the light of day, it must be supported in the first place by the Future Movement and the March 14 parties, in addition to the FPM leader’s March 8 allies, but this does not seem to be within reach at present, the sources said.
They added that if Aoun succeeded in persuading all Christian parties of the need to hold parliamentary elections – which is deemed impossible for now – it would be difficult for the government and other parliamentary blocs to disregard the unanimity of Christians who have complained of a vacancy in the country’s top Christian post.
A number of FPM lawmakers see Aoun as fighting his last political battle and believe he will not hesitate to use all legal and constitutional political weapons possible in order to win the struggle that he thinks is his last chance to reach the presidency.
By insisting that he does not have a plan B if Hariri does not endorse him as a consensus candidate for the presidency, Aoun’s proposal for holding parliamentary elections might further complicate matters at all levels, especially if other parliamentary blocs reach a consensus on the renewal of Parliament’s mandate and allowing Baabda Palace to remain unoccupied, FPM lawmakers said.