BEIRUT: Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun urged a heavy turnout in a demonstration Friday that his group called for to demand a “road map” to end the country’s political crisis.
“We will gather tomorrow to eradicate the evil which has ruled us for decades,” Aoun told a news conference at his Rabieh residence Thursday. “Tomorrow is a historic moment and all the Lebanese should be one voice ... demanding a fair election law and a president elected without misrepresentation,” the lawmaker added.
“We can only be represented fairly with [a draft election law based on] proportional representation.”
The FPM protest is planned to take place at Beirut’s Martyrs’ Square in the afternoon.
Last week, Aoun outlined what he described as a road map to break Lebanon’s political crisis.
It starts with the election of a president by the people, or by approving an electoral law based on a proportional representation system, holding parliamentary elections and electing a president by the newly elected Parliament.
Friday’s protest comes as the country is witnessing a number of anti-government demonstrations fueled by the Cabinet’s inability to solve an ongoing trash crisis and rampant corruption.
Ahead of Friday’s demonstration, Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk chaired a security meeting at the Interior Ministry to discuss means to protect protesters.
Machnouk asked officers to order Internal Security Forces personnel to work on protecting protesters, preserve public and private property, prevent rioting and ensure normal flow of traffic.
U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon David Hale said after meeting Prime Minister Tammam Salam that “peaceful, nonviolent protest is an integral part of our two nations’ histories and enshrined in both of our constitutions.”
“The prime minister and I agree, it is a right that must be protected and respected, as it is essential for true stability in any society,” he added.
Hale said he discussed with Salam the upcoming meeting of the International Support Group for Lebanon at the U.N. General Assembly later this month, and Wednesday’s discussion of Lebanon in the Security Council. “It is safe to say that the international community’s support for Lebanon’s sovereignty, security and stability is as strong as ever.”
Hale said his country welcomed any efforts to reactivate the Cabinet’s work.
“But there is a deeper issue. As the members of the U.N. Security Council reiterated yesterday [Wednesday], now is the time for Parliament to meet and elect a president of the republic as soon as possible,” Hale said.
The U.N. Security Council Wednesday called on Lebanon’s Parliament to elect a new president to help ease the political crisis which had fueled street protests in the country. After hearing a report from U.N. envoy Sigrid Kaag, the 15-member council expressed support for the government, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters.
Council members called on Parliament “to meet and elect a president as soon as possible in order to put an end to the constitutional instability,” said Churkin, whose country holds the presidency of the council this month.
A meeting about the crisis in Lebanon is expected to take place on the sidelines of the U.N. gathering of world leaders later this month.
Kaag Thursday dismissed Lebanese media reports that the briefing at the U.N. headquarters in New York was an emergency meeting.
In a statement released by her office in Beirut, Kaag said the meeting was held upon her request “to share her perspective and concerns with members of the Security Council. We had a very effective discussion, which I think displayed considerable unity of views of members of the Security Council.”
Kaag also said Security Council members look forward to the high-level meeting of the ISGL that will take place during the upcoming session of U.N. General Assembly.
Meanwhile, MPs from Speaker Nabih Berri’s bloc visited a number of leaders, handing them invitations to attend the dialogue session the speaker has set for next Wednesday. The talks aim at addressing the presidential deadlock as well as the Cabinet and Parliament paralysis among other items.
Receiving invitations were Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, Aoun, Tourism Minister Michel Pharaon, MP Michel Murr and MP Walid Jumblatt. Except for Geagea, most leaders from across the political divide have so far welcomed Berri’s call for an all-inclusive dialogue.
MP Michel Musa, who handed the invitation to Geagea, said the LF leader would send a response to Berri early next week. “Dr. Geagea explained to me his point of view regarding this dialogue. He will wait for the appropriate decision that will be made by the party’s executive committee and will convey it to Speaker Berri at the start of next week,” Musa said.
Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc welcomed Berri’s call for national dialogue, saying it constituted an opportunity to come up with solutions that should be seized. “[The bloc] will take part in this dialogue and is ready to secure the required atmosphere to make it a success out of its belief that it is a national necessity,” said a statement by Hezbollah’s bloc after its weekly meeting.