Lebanon News

Geagea ready to back Bkirki’s candidates for presidency

Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea speaks during an interview with The Daily Star in Maarab, Tuesday, June 3, 2014. (The Daily Star/Aldo Ayoub, HO)

BEIRUT: Presidential hopeful Samir Geagea Monday announced that he was ready to endorse a list put forth by the Maronite church for potential candidates to the presidency in a bid to end the vacuum in Lebanon’s top Christian post.

The Lebanese Forces leader also said that the March 14 coalition was ready to agree with March 8 rivals on narrowing down the presidential race to two candidates.

“I accept Bkirki’s list, which comprises [former ministers] Dimyanos Kattar, Roger Dib and Ziyad Baroud,” Geagea said, referring to candidates supported by Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai.

Once again hinting at his willingness to withdraw his candidacy, Geagea proposed three solutions to break the presidential deadlock.

“We have three solutions for the current crisis: The first one, which I wish will happen, is that [Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel] Aoun attends the upcoming session on the 18th and we all participate in the election and congratulate whoever wins,” Geagea told local station MTV in a wide-ranging interview.

“The second solution is that we, the March 14 coalition, agree with them [the March 8 alliance] on two candidates and go to Parliament to elect one of them a president,” Geagea added. “The third solution is that I am ready to receive any other proposal if there was any.”

Geagea announced his candidacy in April. In the first round of voting that Parliament held late that month, he garnered 48 votes, well below the majority 86 votes required to secure victory at the first hurdle.

Successive election rounds were impeded by a lack of quorum and the country was plunged into presidential vacuum when President Michel Sleiman’s term expired on May 25.

Earlier Monday, Speaker Nabih Berri postponed to June 18 a sixth session to attempt to elect a new president after the noon’s meeting was again thwarted by a lack of quorum.

Lawmakers from Hezbollah and Michel Aoun’s blocs and other allied MPs did not show up. They argue that they will only participate in an election Parliament session when a presidential candidate has won the support of various Lebanese groups.

The March 8 coalition has hinted that it backs Aoun, but has never announced it publicly.

Only 64 MPs turned up Monday, including members of the March 14 coalition and the blocs of Speaker Nabih Berri and MP Walid Jumblatt.

The Future bloc of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri reiterated its support for Geagea’s candidacy and blamed the March 8 coalition for vacuum through preventing Parliament from convening.

“The Future bloc calls on all groups and particularly the March 8 alliance, to consider serious and realistic steps to end the presidential vacuum,” the bloc said in a statement after its weekly meeting.

Prime Minister Tammam Salam expressed hope that a president would be elected as soon as possible, however, he stressed that this could not be achieved by the dangerous policy of obstructing the work of Parliament and government.

After the presidential vacuum began, March 14 MPs and lawmakers from Aoun’s bloc announced that they would boycott all legislative sessions of Parliament – except for those aimed at discussing urgent draft laws – in a bid to expedite the election.

They are also calling on the Cabinet to adopt a mechanism to ensure the prime minister’s work does not infringe on the powers of the president.

Addressing visitors at the Grand Serail, Salam said he had called for a Cabinet session Thursday to continue discussing this mechanism.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 10, 2014, on page 1.




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