BEIRUT — "I did my part; I proposed a dialogue initiative that they rejected," Lebanon's Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said in an interview with al-Joumhouria newspaper published on Tuesday. He criticized his opponents who refused the parliamentary dialogue initiative he proposed at the end of August.
The head of the legislative branch stressed that the detractors of the dialogue "have closed the path" to saving Lebanon, which has been without a president since October 2022 and is sinking further into an unprecedented economic crisis. He also emphasized the need to hold open and successive electoral sessions until a president is chosen.
'I have nothing left'
"I did my part; I proposed a dialogue initiative that they rejected, and I have nothing left," Berri said on Tuesday in al-Joumhouria. Before adding, "Let those who rejected it come and propose another solution. Do they have one?" The initiative put forth by the speaker involved open electoral sessions in Parliament, provided they were preceded by an extended dialogue bringing together parliamentary group leaders for seven days to reach a consensus on a candidate.
Some longstanding opponents of Berri, such as Gebran Bassil's Free Patriotic Movement, initially supported this initiative but later criticized it.
"We showed the path to salvation, and they closed it," Berri said in the interview. "We were capable of coming together, either reaching an agreement for the good of the country or failing to reach an agreement without it signifying the end of the process. In both cases, we should have gone to Parliament and voted through open and successive electoral sessions until we elected a president. Unfortunately, they opposed it and refused dialogue," he said.
The Lebanese presidential election is presently at a standstill. Some 12 electoral sessions held since September 2022 have ended in failure, with no one elected due to a lack of political agreement among local political groups.
In a response to Berri, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea called on the Speaker to convene open electoral sessions until a President is elected. "Making dialogue a compulsory step for the election is a breach of the Constitution," Geagea asserted.
"The Constitution is explicit (...) The presidential election must occur through successive sessions, and making dialogue mandatory for the election is a violation of the Constitution," he continued.
"I propose an alternative aligned with your own standpoint (...) Why not consider that we have not reached an agreement and proceed directly to the second phase of your initiative, which calls for successive electoral sessions until a new president is chosen for the country?" Geagea asked.