BEIRUT — Free Patriotic Movement head Gebran Bassil on Sunday criticized the dialogue initiative Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri proposed to break the presidential deadlock.
In a speech, delivered at a celebration commemorating his third term as the head of the FPM party, Bassil said he instead advocated for "bilateral or trilateral discussions" between party leaders to bring about the election of a president. Lebanon has been without a head of state since Michel Aoun's term ended in October 2022.
Bassil's proposed approach is in line with that of French President Emmanuel Macron's special envoy to Lebanon, Jean-Yves Le Drian. During his latest visit to Beirut, Le Drain said he favored political "discussions," over broader dialogue.
Bassil initially welcomed the initiative launched at the end of August by Berri. The later pledged to hold open electoral sessions in Parliament, preceded by an extended dialogue initiative bringing together the heads of parliamentary groups for seven days with the goal of agreeing on a candidate.
Bassil also criticized the main political camps' handling of the presidential vacuum, and the presence of Palestinian and Syrian migrants in Lebanon.
He was automatically re-elected Chairman of the FPM on August 25, since no candidate stood against him. Bassil has served as the party's president since 2015.
Here is a translation of the main points of Bassil's speech:
On the presidential election and dialogue:
The president's program is more important than his person, especially if that person has no personal representativeness and we have to compensate for that with support from Parliament and the people. We must abandon the logic of imposition and move towards that of dialogue and understanding.
The moumanaa camp cannot impose on us a candidate who does not represent us, our mentality, or our people. Similarly, the opposition cannot impose on the moumanaa a candidate who defies it and justifies its fears.
The logic of dialogue and understanding is self-evident if we want to emerge from vacancy and collapse, unless one side intends to keep us in vacancy and the other wants us to relive old nightmares.
Come to a dialogue on the presidential priority sheet, and let's determine what we agree on, as we did recently with Hezbollah. Come to a real dialogue, or we won't participate. Not a traditional dialogue, without a round table, with a chairman and a chairman! This can take the form of bilateral, trilateral and plural discussions, with party leaders and not representatives, in a limited time and place, on a specific subject. May this dialogue lead to the election of a reformist president according to the characteristics defined by a consensus-based reform program!
Come all publicly announce, first and foremost the Speaker of Parliament, the holding of a session of the House after a time-limited dialogue, with open electoral sessions that either enshrine a consensus found on a name or show a democratic competition with an election between two candidates. We will accept the result as the Constitution requires.
Let's not violate the Constitution from the outset, otherwise, what are the promises to respect the national accord and Taef worth? What good are promises to build a state governed by the rule of law if we start our mandate by violating the Constitution while electing someone who must swear to protect the Constitution?
The CPL is fiercely opposed to Sleiman Frangieh, the presidential candidate backed by the Shiite Amal-Hezbollah tandem. Gebran Bassil has also repeatedly criticized the possible candidacy of Joseph Aoun, commander-in-chief of the Lebanese army, whose name is being floated.
On Syrian and Palestinian migrants:
We cannot defend our homeland if everyone emigrates and is replaced by other people, even if they are neighbors and brothers.
We call for the liberation of our country from conflicts and ideologies to which it has no connection, and which are needlessly damaging it.
In 1948, we paid the price of the Palestinian Nakba, leading to war in 1975. We were forced into an oppressed asylum, for which we continue to pay the price today. Is it permissible to pay again, after 75 years, the price of Palestinian conflicts in camps on our soil, fed from outside and leading to new dangers?
The latest fighting in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain al-Hilweh, in southern Lebanon, lasted a week and caused at least 18 deaths, hundreds of injuries, and thousands of displaced persons.
A new mandate for the head of the FPM and the Bou Saab affair:
We opened the door to other candidates for the presidency of the FPM. Despite invitations and encouragement from me and others, no one has taken advantage of this opportunity and applied. It's a foregone conclusion in view of a known result, and nobody feels ready to fight an electoral battle that has already been won among the people.
The automatic election is democratic, and the results are final. The best battles are the ones you win without having to fight them!
Everyone has the right to a different opinion. Opposition is a sacred right, but within the CPL and its equipment, not in living rooms or in the press. And when a decision is made, everyone must abide by it. Anyone who doesn't abide by decisions is outside the rules, exposes himself to decisions and even puts himself outside the party. This is the lot of parties and the cost of political affiliation.
-Nobody is obliged to be in a party. But you don't just take from the party, you also have to give to it.
Elias Bou Saab, MP for Metn and Deputy Speaker of the House, is subject to "party sanctions", for having departed from the decision to support the candidacy of Jihad Azour (backed by the FPM and the opposition) in the presidential elections.
This article was originally published in French in L'Orient-Le Jour.
BEIRUT — Free Patriotic Movement head Gebran Bassil on Sunday criticized the dialogue initiative Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri proposed to break the presidential deadlock. In a speech, delivered at a celebration commemorating his third term as the head of the FPM party, Bassil said he instead advocated for "bilateral or trilateral discussions" between party leaders to bring about the...