Lebanon needs a president. Politicians are living in a world of self-delusion if they think they have the luxury of going around in circles as they try to agree on filling the vacancy in the country’s top political post.
They’ve already lost the attention of ordinary Lebanese, who show little interest in following the stream of news items such as A won’t meet with B, C has made a statement complaining about D, while E and F are supposedly engaged in behind-the-scenes negotiations.
Lebanon faces a whole host of pressing problems and challenges, and the election of a consensus president is the first step to generating a game plan for tackling all of these issues. Only when the presidential vacuum is over will there be a hope of dealing with momentous tasks such as forming a new, viable Cabinet, ensuring that parliamentary elections take place this year, bolstering national security, and preventing further damage to the economy – solutions for these matters will remain half-hearted steps if Baabda Palace remains vacant.
The presidential vacuum is not just a Maronite or Christian issue but one that affects the entire country, which is even more threatened by regional turbulence than ever before, given recent events in Iraq.
Politicians can no longer afford to engage in pettiness or Byzantine debates over how presidents have been and should be elected in Lebanon – the question is whether they have a plan to help the country exit its current state of drift and paralysis. If they can convince people that Lebanon can exist indefinitely without a president of the Republic, then let them explain how – otherwise, they must produce a solution, and not continue to talk about the dangers that lie ahead.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 16, 2014, on page 7.