BEIRUT — Maronite Patriarch Bechara al-Rai urged MPs on Sunday to elect a president as soon as possible. The country has been without a head of state since Michel Aoun's mandate ended on Oct. 31. Rai also insisted that the upcoming president should not be "imposed." Meanwhile, Hezbollah central council member Nabil Kaouk rejected on Sunday the election of any president that "conspires against the resistance" — a reference to his own party.
During his Sunday homily, Rai accused the Parliament of “wasting time, Thursday after Thursday, and week after week, in a farce that they are not ashamed of,” referring to Parliament's repeated failure of elect a president at each of a series of Thursday sessions dedicated to the task.
Michel Aoun's presidential term ended Oct. 31. So far, Parliament has held six sessions to elect his successor, all of which have failed. Hezbollah and its allies cast blank ballots at each of these sessions, while their political camp has yet to reach an agreement on a single candidate. Hezbollah's Maronite allies, the Free Patriotic Movement's Gebran Bassil and Marada Movement's Sleiman Frangieh, are both considered serious candidates for the role.
Rai appealed to MPs not to fall "victim to fraud, misinformation, settlements and fleeting electoral promises, and on the other hand, to power, threats and intimidation."
"Lebanon's presidential election cannot be imposed," Rai insisted.
Criteria for the next president
Rai also listed eight criteria to which the next president should adhere, in his opinion. According to Rai, the next president should form a rescue cabinet, abide by the Taif Agreement to ensure unity among the Lebanese, and restore and strengthen the national partnership between the various components in Lebanon.
Rai continued by saying that the president should ensure "decentralization on a regional level within the framework of the Lebanese entity so that pluralism is manifested in its civil, administrative, developmental and general dimensions."
He added that the president should immediately start implementing political, administrative, judicial and economic reform programs, and "invite countries that are friends of Lebanon to organize a conference to help the country or to revive previous conferences, and to implement the Security Council resolutions concerned with extending the legitimate Lebanese authority over the entire national territory, while fixing its borders with both Israel and Syria."
Rai stated that the president should also find a final humanitarian solution to the Palestinian and Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
He also assured that the next head of state must take "a presidential initiative to urgently call on the United Nations to sponsor a special conference for Lebanon, and to carry out all Arab and international contacts to secure the convening of this conference."
"We have identified its points of discussion more than once," Rai noted.
Meanwhile, Kaouk noted that Hezbollah wants a consensual president who “saves” the country and does not “conspire against the resistance.”
Kaouk's words came during the honorary ceremony for Hezbollah in the southern town of al-Sawana, echoing the words of the head of Hezbollah's parliamentary bloc, Mohammad Raad, last Tuesday. Raad said the next president of Lebanon should "not stab the resistance in the back," an assertion similar to one made earlier in November by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.
Kaouk warned that rejecting consensus means “repeating the scene of past [parliamentary] sessions for an unknown period."
He stated that "those who approached the presidential election with the logic of challenge and confrontation and raised slogans greater than their size are the ones who caused the presidential vacuum."
Kaouk concluded by accusing Saudi Arabia of meddling in the presidential election and pointed out that "there are a number of MPs who are still complaining about being subjected to Saudi pressure in order to change their position on the election of the president of the republic."
BEIRUT — Maronite Patriarch Bechara al-Rai urged MPs on Sunday to elect a president as soon as possible. The country has been without a head of state since Michel Aoun's mandate ended on Oct. 31. Rai also insisted that the upcoming president should not be "imposed." Meanwhile, Hezbollah central council member Nabil Kaouk rejected on Sunday the election of any president that...