Lebanon News

Officials warn against power vacuum

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri heads the weekly meeting in Beirut, Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014. (The Daily Star/Lebanese Parliament Website, HO)

BEIRUT: Local and international officials warned Wednesday against the presidential vacuum that has been gripping Lebanon for more than three months, calling for the speedy election of a head of state.

Meanwhile, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi highlighted the need to preserve Lebanon’s unity and stability during talks with Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt in Cairo.

“The Egyptian president stressed the need to strengthen Lebanon’s home front in order to preserve the unity and stability of Lebanon,” Sisi’s spokesman Ehab Badawi said.

Badawi said that Sisi had discussed with Jumblatt several regional issues of mutual interest, in particular the Syrian conflict.

Sisi and Jumblatt touched on the repercussions of Syria’s crisis in Lebanon, particularly in light of the presidential vacuum in Lebanon since May 25.

The PSP leader, who was expected to return to Lebanon Wednesday evening, voiced hope that Egypt would contribute to bridging gaps between Lebanese political parties.

Separately, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri highlighted the threats posed by extremist militants as well as power vacuum.

“He [Berri] sounded the alarm due to the institutional vacuum and the threats facing the country,” said MPs who attended his weekly meeting with lawmakers at his Ain al-Tineh residence.

Berri also reiterated his opposition to the extension of Parliament’s term.

“This means extending the term of disruption, vacuum and paralysis, since Parliament is paralyzed and unable to fulfill its duties and assume its responsibilities,” Berri said.

The lawmakers said that Muslim political and religious leaders would soon issue a document condemning attacks by Islamist groups on Christians in Iraq and Syria, and that Berri would be the first to sign it.

U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Derek Plumbly said that political parties must elect a new president without further delay.

“I take this opportunity to again stress the importance of preserving Lebanon’s values of democracy, moderation and pluralism, and the institutions of the state which enshrine them,” Plumbly said after meeting Prime Minister Tammam Salam at the Grand Serail. “This underscores again the importance of Lebanon’s political parties’ electing a president without further delay.”

The Council of Maronite Bishops expressed regret that Parliament had failed to elect a president for the 11th time Tuesday.

“His election will represent the way out for all pending and thorny issues. Lebanon’s president is the president of all Lebanese and the guarantor of the nation’s unity and its Constitution,” the bishops said in a statement after their monthly meeting. The statement said that the delay in electing a president was a “stab” to the concept and powers of the presidency.

Lebanon plunged into a presidential vacuum after the term of President Michel Sleiman expired in May. Parliament has failed since them to elect a successor, as rival political factions are unable to agree on one candidate.

The March 14 coalition has voiced its support for Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea for the presidency, while the March 8 alliance backs his rival, Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun.

In a bid to break the presidential deadlock, the March 14 coalition offered Tuesday to strike a deal with its March 8 rivals on a consensus candidate other than Aoun and Geagea.

Based on the initiative, a liaison committee from the March 14 coalition would hold contacts with March 8 rivals in a bid to reach an agreement on a consensus candidate.

But the initiative was dismissed the same day by Aoun’s bloc as “old and meaningless,” while Berri said it offered nothing new.

Commenting on the stance of Aoun’s bloc, Fares Soueid, the coordinator of the March 14 General Secretariat, said that his group would make no response, particularly since it had voiced its willingness to engage in dialogue with various parties in order to reach consensus on a candidate.

“We will discuss the opinion of the Free Patriotic Movement with it or with its allies, particularly Hezbollah, which has the key to resolving the presidential deadlock more than the Free Patriotic Movement does,” Soueid said after attending the regular meeting of the March 14 General Secretariat.

Soueid said that other responses made to the initiative were either hasty or related to the competition over the presidency.

“The opposition of the initiative by the March 8 coalition threatens the unity of Lebanese institutions and will lead to lawlessness on the borders, disrespect of international resolutions and consequently the collapse of the state in Lebanon,” Soueid added.

Future bloc MP Atef Majdalani said that the liaison committee would begin its work next week in an attempt to reach an agreement on a presidential candidate.

Speaking to a local radio station, Majdalani denied reports that the March 14 coalition would propose to its rivals the names of possible consensus candidates.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 04, 2014, on page 3.




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