The head of the Maronite Church Bechara al-Rai said Sunday that "the intentional presidential vacancy is a betrayal," while some people fear a total political vacuum in the executive power in Lebanon.
The mandate of the current President Michel Aoun expires on Oct. 31, while the caretaker government of Najib Mikati has been in charge of expediting affairs since May. This scenario suggests the potential for a serious political crisis in a country in socio-economic collapse since 2019.
Three days ago, Lebanon entered the legal phase of the presidential election. It is the members of the Parliament who must elect the next head of state.
One demand: the election of a president
"Who is responsible for the vacuum or vacancy in the presidency? Is it the president of the republic who is at the end of his term, or the resigning government?" the Maronite patriarch asked in his Sunday homily delivered in Dimane, the patriarchate's summer headquarters. "We consider the intentional presidential vacancy to be a plot against what the office of the president represents in the republic. It is even a betrayal against Lebanon," said the patriarch. Rai has long been multiplying attacks against the political class and against the camp of President Aoun, accused by his detractors of doing everything to preserve his political legacy and not be cast from power.
"The prospect of a presidential vacancy is categorically unacceptable. The only demand is the election of a president within the constitutional deadline," the patriarch insisted. According to him, "it is clear that there is a political project hostile to the country," while Lebanon could find itself for the first time in its history in a total vacuum in the executive, without a president and with a caretaker government in place.
"It is necessary for the political forces to agree on one or two personalities who have the qualities that are now known. Parliament must elect a president in the constitutional period that has already begun," Rai said. But Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri has yet to call for such a session.