BEIRUT — Lebanese President Michel Aoun urged Friday for the election of his successor, that should be a "top priority," as the presence of a sitting president is "fundamental for the formation of a new government," less than a month before the end of his presidential term on Oct. 31. Until now, Aoun has insisted that a new cabinet be formed before the presidential election deadline, but governmental negotiations have stalled, notably because of differences between Aoun and Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati.
"The top priority now remains the election of a new head of state, because the presence of a president is fundamental for the formation of a new government and not the other way around," said Aoun on the sidelines of a meeting with the Arab League Assistant Secretary-General Hossam Zaki, who has been visiting Lebanon since yesterday.
"National participation and the National Pact cannot be achieved in Lebanon without a president," he continued, in remarks reported by the president's Twitter account.
'Lebanon's interest above all'
For his part, Zaki said on Friday that his organization "does not take sides" but "places the interest of Lebanon above all," in regard to the presidential election.
"The League is present with Lebanon in all its deadlines, but talks of an Arab initiative [for the presidential election] is premature," he continued, in remarks reported by the Lebanese presidency on Twitter.
The first parliamentary electoral session failed to elect a new head of state, as a majority of MPs cast white ballots. A new session is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 13. So far, no consensus seems to have been reached by the different political formations.
On the issue of the maritime border between Lebanon and Israel, Zaki said that the League "supports Lebanon's rights to its lands and waters. It stands by its side on this issue, and will never let it down." On Thursday, Israel refused Lebanese amendments to the resolution proposed to the border dispute, submitted by US envoy Amos Hochstein.
White ballots for president
On Thursday, the Assistant Secretary-General of the Arab League met with several leaders of Lebanese political parties, including the leader of the Lebanese Forces Samir Geagea in the party's headquarters in Maarab.
"[Hezbollah, Amal] and Gebran Bassil block the election of a new president," said Geagea on this occasion. LF's MPs voted for MP Michel Moawad (independent/North Lebanon III) during the first parliamentary election session. Hezbollah, Amal and Bassil's Free Patriotic Movement cast a white ballot.
According to a statement published on the LF's website, Geagea also expressed during his meeting with Zaki, his "hope that the Arab League uses its Lebanese, Arab and regional relations to work for the election of a new president within the constitutional deadline, especially since the economic and social situation in Lebanon is at its lowest."
The international community regularly calls on Lebanon to respect its electoral deadlines. If no president is elected, Lebanon would find itself for the first time in its history in a total political vacuum at the executive level: without a president and with a resigned government.