Lebanon News

Siniora warns of presidential vacuum

File - Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai, center, receives former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora in Bkirki, Monday, Dec. 2, 2013. (The Daily Star/HO)

BEIRUT: Former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora met political and religious leaders Monday as part of the Future Movement’s new drive to facilitate the formation of a government and ensure the presidential elections occur next year. Heading a delegation of Future Movement MPs, Siniora discussed the elections and the country’s security situation with Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai at Bkirki.

“We had similar opinions with Patriarch Rai as we always do over these issues, particularly in terms of adhering to the principles of the Baabda Declaration through efforts to distance Lebanon from regional and international conflicts, particularly in Syria,” Siniora told reporters after the meeting.

Siniora said he emphasized in his meeting with Rai the importance of maintaining coexistence in Lebanon and adhering to the principles of democracy and the transition of power.

He also called for the complete implementation of the Taif Accord:

“This agreement is a point of consensus among the Lebanese and it has not been completely implemented so far. There is a need to stress commitment to it in the upcoming phase through its full implementation.”

Earlier, Siniora discussed security and political developments with President Michel Sleiman in Baabda Palace along with efforts to form a new government, a statement from the president’s office said.

“Former Prime Minister Siniora informed President Sleiman of the outcome of consultations he is holding with leaders,” a source close to Sleiman told The Daily Star on condition of anonymity. “The aim of Siniora’s consultations is to have a government that represents all Lebanese parties to be present if, God forbid, there was a presidential vacuum.”

Siniora met Speaker Nabih Berri Sunday. Last week, Future MPs Hadi Hobeish and Ahmad Fatfat visited Rai on the instructions of Siniora, who heads the movement’s parliamentary bloc.

Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam was nominated in April, but has failed to form a government due to conditions and counterconditions by the March 8 and March 14 coalitions.

With a deepening political deadlock in the country, there are fears that Parliament might fail to elect a new president if rival parties fail to agree on a candidate. Sleiman’s term expires in May 2014 and the constitutional period to elect his successor begins on March 25. The country witnessed a six-month vacuum in the presidency prior to the election of Sleiman in May 2008.

Separately, Kataeb Party leader Amin Gemayel called for the swift formation of a new government.

“We all know that the situation in Lebanon is very dangerous and cannot continue as such ... A Cabinet should be swiftly formed without any delay away from conditions, counter-conditions and narrow interests,” Gemayel told reporters after meeting Rai in Bkirki.

Gemayel said that when formed, the government should only make decisions by consensus and would govern for a few months to prepare for presidential elections.

“This government has to prepare for presidential elections, as it is not acceptable that we experience a presidential vacuum,” Gemayel said.

When asked whether he was going to run for presidential elections along with Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea and Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun, Gemayel did not give a clear answer.

“We support both and will congratulate whoever wins ... I say that the personality of the president reflects his program. He should have a history ... experience and enjoy the confidence of the people,” Gemayel said.

“This is needed because Lebanon is witnessing a dangerous phase and we are at crossroads ... given all that is happening in the region,” he said, stressing the need for unity.

For his part, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea said that he would run for presidential elections if a majority of MPs supported the move.

“Of course I will run for the presidency when I feel that circumstances are suitable and that there is a majority in Parliament supporting it,” he said.

“I thank General Aoun for supporting my candidacy and for considering me a strong candidate. Of course this is not a simple or easy issue. I have to think about it and propose it to the executive committee of the Lebanese Forces, and I will make a decision in light of that,” Geagea said.

Last week, Aoun told a local newspaper he backed Geagea’s presidential candidacy. In return, Geagea called on Aoun to announce his candidacy.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 03, 2013, on page 3.

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