BEIRUT — Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri's Thursday call for dialogue and open electoral sessions to elect a new president garnered contrasting reactions from Lebanon's political class.
In a speech to mark the 45th anniversary of the disappearance of the founder of the Amal Movement, Imam Moussa Sadr, Berri pledged to hold open electoral sessions in Parliament, provided they were preceded by an extended dialogue that would bring together the heads of parliamentary groups in the hemicycle for seven days.
Lebanon has been without a president since Oct. 31, 2022, when Michel Aoun stepped down from office.
Kataeb leader Samy Gemayel called the parliamentary speaker's suggestion "an admission of his willful violation of the Constitution."
"The application of the Constitution must not be used as a means of blackmail. Parliament does not belong to you, it belongs to the Lebanese people," Gemayel wrote on the X platform (formerly Twitter), addressing Nabih Berri.
MP Achraf Rifi (Independent/Tripoli) rejected the Parliament Speaker's proposal outright.
"We reject any initiative that is not provided for in the Constitution to elect a president. There will be no dialogue before [the election of a president] or after," he said to al-Jadeed TV channel.
"What we have heard from President Berri is good and positive," said Gebran Bassil, head of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), despite his historically fierce opposition to Berri.
"Our condition given to the French to participate in the dialogue was that, once this dialogue is over and whatever the result, there must either be a consensus enshrined in an electoral session in Parliament, or we will accept the game of democratic competition in successive electoral sessions," Bassil said at a party event in Koura, North Lebanon, on Thursday.
"That's what they promised us. ... If things go this way, we'll have a president in September."
During his last visit to Lebanon, French President Emmanuel Macron's special envoy, Jean-Yves Le Drian, proposed a meeting between the various Lebanese political players in September. Berri has called for a national dialogue on several occasions, but the form of his initiative presented on Thursday is unprecedented.