BEIRUT: The Future Movement Tuesday began consultations with its March 14 Christian allies aimed at overcoming opposition to MP Sleiman Frangieh’s proposed nomination for the presidency, in the latest attempt to break an impasse that has left the country without a president for more than 18 months.
Meanwhile, Parliament is scheduled to meet Wednesday in the 32nd attempt since April last year to elect a president amid signs that the session is doomed to fail like previous ones over a lack of quorum. Speaker Nabih Berri is expected to call for a new Parliament session before the Christmas and New Year holidays.
The parliamentary Future bloc also praised former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s latest initiative to end the presidential vacuum as part of an all-embracing political settlement, in a clear reference to a proposal to nominate Frangieh for the country’s top Christian post.
Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk, a leading figure in the Future Movement, met with Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea who staunchly opposes Frangieh’s presidential bid. Machnouk acknowledged differences between the Future Movement and the LF that surfaced last week after Frangieh emerged as a strong candidate for the presidency following his reported meeting with Hariri in Paris last month.
“We are in constant consultation with Dr. Geagea. There is a political agreement on all strategic topics. In reviewing the joint strategic denominators, we agreed on many of them, but naturally it is impossible to reach a 100 percent agreement,” he told reporters after the two-hour meeting with Geagea at the latter’s residence in Maarab, north of Beirut.Asked about the reasons for the differences between the two parties, Machnouk said: “Each side has its own viewpoint toward specific issues. But this does not mean at all that we are heading for a confrontation or in discord. We are in an open debate of all matters. The LF chief accepts all our ideas and we accept all his ideas and discuss them.”
Referring to the Future-LF rift over Frangieh’s presidential bid, he said: “MP Sleiman Frangieh has not yet officially announced his candidacy. All matters are subject to a positive debate, rather than to a confrontation, problems or destroying the March 14 march, which is years old.”
On the possibility of March 14 parties adopting a unified stance on supporting Frangieh’s nomination, Machnouk, citing an English proverb, said: “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”
Asked if he carried any message from Hariri to Geagea, he said: “I didn’t come at his [Hariri’s] request, but I am aware of his ideas.”
Frangieh Monday defended his presidential bid in the face of opposition from the country’s three main Christian parties: The Free Patriotic Movement, the LF and the Kataeb Party. He criticized the three parties for rejecting his candidacy without offering a valid argument.
Frangieh said last week that Hariri has launched an initiative to break the presidential deadlock as part of a comprehensive settlement. He said a proposal to name him for the presidency is serious, but it is not official yet. Hariri has yet to officially announce his support for Frangieh’s nomination.
The Future bloc welcomed “Hariri’s initiative to end the presidential vacancy amid unprecedented complications and dangers in the region, and amid the paralysis hitting the Lebanese state institutions.”
“This initiative emanates from a sense of national responsibility which calls on all people loyal to the homeland to support this salvation step under the slogan of a national reconciliation settlement to end the presidential vacancy which is threatening Lebanon and the future of its people and its economy,” the bloc said in a statement after its weekly meeting.
For his part, the Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Awad Asiri renewed his call on rival politicians to elect a president to end paralysis in state institutions. In a statement carried by the NNA, Asiri expressed “the kingdom’s hope that political parties will be able to elect a president as the earliest possible time in order to put an end to paralysis in state institutions, which has begun to reflect negatively on the general situation.” “We support any candidate on whom Lebanese brothers in general, and Christians in particular, agree because the presidency is the top Christian post in the state,” he added.