BEIRUT — The head of the Maronite Church, Patriarch Bechara Rai, on Sunday implicitly criticized the call for dialogue launched by France's special envoy to Lebanon, Jean-Yves Le Drian, in an attempt to break the presidential election deadlock.
Lebanon has been without a president since the end of October 2022 after Michel Aoun's term expired.
According to the National News Agency (NNA), the Patriarch acknowledged the letter Le Drian sent to members of Parliament last week asking them to briefly outline the profile and priorities of the next head of state.
"These days you hear talk of questions and answers, of meeting and dialogue," the patriarch quipped during his Sunday homily, in a reference to the questionnaire sent by Le Drian.
"True and effective dialogue is voting in a constitutional and democratic legislative session," Rai added, recalling that "the candidates are known."
Le Drian, who has twice been dispatched to Beirut by French President Emmanuel Macron, is expected back in Lebanon in early September.
Criticism of Hezbollah and the Amal Movement
Rai also criticized Hezbollah and its allies, whose deputies withdrew from electoral sessions at the end of each first round of voting to provoke a loss of quorum.
"What have the masters of the presidential stalemate been up to for the last eleven months? Are they aware that they are transforming Parliament into an electoral body only, and accusing those boycotting the sessions of not wanting to elect a president, and not respecting the Taif agreement?" Rai said.
“They criticize those who boycott meetings to preserve the constitution and invent the question of "necessity" to legislate and make appointments when there is a single, essential necessity: the election of a President of the Republic."
The Patriarch's comments came at a time when caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati is accused by his detractors — notably the FPM, whose ministers are boycotting cabinet meetings — of seeking to monopolize presidential prerogatives.
Also during his Sunday homily, Greek Orthodox Metropolitan of Beirut Elias Audi blasted the political crisis in Lebanon, asking: “How things could improve when the state is without a president, with a resigned cabinet and a scattered Parliament?”
Addressing the presidential election, Hezbollah MP Hassan Fadlallah said on Sunday that his party is conducting "a dialogue with the FPM."
"Meetings have been held over the past few days. We … are exchanging views to reach common points and agree on the election of a president,” said Fadlallah during a partisan meeting in Bint Jbeil, as reported by the NNA. “We want this dialogue to succeed and we are working to this end.”
He pointed to a "mutual flexibility that could establish common ground to ensure the constitutional and legal quorum to elect a president around whom there is agreement."