BEIRUT — The head of the Free Patriotic Movement Gebran Bassil said Monday after a meeting with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri that "consensus is a must" for the election of a president in Lebanon, while there are only two weeks left to elect a successor to Michel Aoun, whose term ends on Oct. 31.
"We cannot elect a president without dialogue, and Berri has a great role to play in this framework," Bassil said from the speaker's residence Ain al-Tineh, where he met with Berri, whom he described as "understanding and open" to this dialogue.
"This does not erase the political disagreements. Everyone has their own position, but our system requires consensus, perhaps not unanimity, but at least consensus … it is a necessary step," Bassil added. Political relations between Berri and Bassil have often experienced tensions and meetings between the two leaders are rare.
"We have to agree on a name and try to elect a new president in the remaining days," Bassil continued. Shorty after Bassil and Berri's meeting, a delegation of MPs from the FPM-affiliated group, led by MP Alain Aoun, met with the head of the Hezbollah parliamentary group, Mohammad Raad. Asked whether Thursday's parliamentary session will result in the election of a president, MP Alain Aoun (FPM/Baabda) said, "I do not see anything ready yet because a consensus has not yet been reached."
Last week, Bassil launched an initiative aimed at starting a dialogue regarding several presidential names that he would discuss with all political camps in Parliament. Last week he met with the head of the Maronite church Bechara al-Rai in Bkirki and his father-in-law President Michel Aoun, who founded FPM. However, some political parties, including the FPM's rival party the Lebanese Forces and Forces of Change MPs, have refused to participate in this dialogue.
"Those who do not want to enter into a presidential vacuum must talk to others," Bassil added from Ain al-Tineh on Monday, in an allusion to all those who refuse to engage in dialogue with his group.
If no successor is found to Aoun before his term ends on Oct. 31, Lebanon will find itself for the first time in its history in a political vacuum at the executive level: without a president and with a caretaker government that has been in charge of running current affairs since last May.
On Saturday, the leader of FPM threatened to change his stance regarding the presidential election.
"I have not yet applied as a candidate for the presidency so as not to embarrass anyone and not to complicate matters. I am trying to facilitate the process, but I will not accept that I am underestimated. Be careful, I might change my mind," Bassil said, having repeatedly said he would not run for the post of head of state.