Maronite Patriarch Bechara al-Rai declared Saturday that he has no preference for any candidate in the Lebanese presidential election, according to a statement published by the National News Agency.
The statement comes three days after the parliamentary election session that pitted former IMF official Jihad Azour against Marada Movement leader Sleiman Frangieh. Neither candidate garnered enough votes to secure the presidency.
Traditionally, the Lebanese presidency is reserved for a figure of the Maronite faith.
Lebanon has been without a president since October 2022. Wednesday's electoral session marked the twelfth attempt to elect a president, all of which have been unsuccessful. He made these remarks during the closing ceremony of the synod of bishops, held at the patriarchate in Bkirki. He denounced Wednesday's electoral session, stating that it did not follow the constitutional and democratic process.
The patriarch added that the session "caused pain, brought shame to the nation's dignity, and tarnished Lebanon's reputation in the eyes of the international community."
"The entire world is waiting for Lebanon, hoping that a president will be elected to lead the country out of the crisis," added Rai, who emphasized that he has no preference for any particular candidate.
Instead, he said he hopes for the election of a president who is "capable of facing the challenges, including fostering internal unity, restoring institutions, and implementing urgently needed measures."
The Maronite bishops issued a closing statement at the end of the synod in which they criticized the "irresponsibility" of the Lebanese MPs. The statement urged Parliament to fulfill its national and constitutional duty by electing a president and promptly forming a government with full powers, capable of adopting a dynamic reform program.
In the aftermath of Wednesday's vote, Azour — backed by the majority of the opposition — received 59 votes while Frangieh — supported by the Hezbollah and the Amal Movement — secured 51 votes. Six MPs voted for former minister Ziad Baroud (seven, according to Parliament Speaker Nabih Berry), eight voted for "The New Lebanon," and one vote each went to Lebanese Army commander-in-chief Joseph Aoun and entrepreneur Jihad al-Arab. One blank vote was also recorded.
Berri did not yet set a date for the next electoral session.
On Friday, French President Emmanuel Macron and Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman "stressed the need to quickly put an end to the institutional political vacuum in Lebanon."
The French presidency highlighted that the absence of a president for eight months "remains the major obstacle to resolving the severe socio-economic crisis" in the country.