BEIRUT — The Maronite Patriarch Bechara al-Rai said that "no Lebanese party has the right to deny any other Lebanese party its right to have a say in choosing" Lebanon's next president, adding that the selection of the country's head of state is "a collective decision," the state-run National News Agency reported Monday. Lebanese parliamentarians have just two weeks left to elect a successor to President Michel Aoun before his mandate expires on Oct. 31.
During Parliament's first election session on Sept. 29, Lebanon's MPs failed to elect a new president due to the lack of consensus between the different political parties. A second election session held last week was adjourned until Thursday for failing to reach quorum.
"The Maronite president, according to the National pact renewed in the Taif Agreement, is the president of all Lebanese people, and, therefore, must be chosen within the framework of democratic principles and national constants," Rai stressed during a sermon that he gave at Saint Joseph Maronite Cathedral in Egypt.
"Cooperation between all parties is necessary, but not at the expense of sovereignty," Rai added, saying that "it is a positive shared responsibility that should not reach the limit of veto and obstruction."
In 2016, the election of Aoun, a christian ally of Hezbollah, was made possible, after more than two years of presidential vacuum, by arrangements between political groups. At the time, the Future Movement, led by Saad Hariri, and Samir Geagea's Lebanese Forces agreed to support the candidacy of the current president, who was also backed by Hezbollah. But today, no consensus or compromise seems to be emerging so far regarding the election, while no one camp can claim to have a majority in Parliament.
If no president is elected by Oct. 31 and no new cabinet is formed, Lebanon will find itself for the first time in its political history with a total vacuum at the executive level: without a president and without a fully empowered government. Lebanon's cabinet has been functioning in a caretaker capacity since it assumed this status following parliamentary elections in May.