Lebanon News

Neither Geagea nor Aoun, Jumblatt says

From left, Patriarch Beshara Rai, receives former President Amin Gemayel and French Ambassador Patrice Paoli in Bkirki, Tuesday, June 10, 2014. (The Daily Star/Maronite Patriarchate Bkerke, HO)

BEIRUT: MP Walid Jumblatt said Tuesday he would inform former Prime Minister Saad Hariri that he would neither vote for Samir Geagea nor Michel Aoun for the presidency.

“I will inform [former Prime Minister] Saad Hariri that I will not vote for Aoun or Geagea,” Jumblatt told Al-Arabiya in an interview.

Jumblatt said he backed the election of a strong head of state rather than a strong Christian president.

“We need a strong head of state rather than a strong Christian president. President Camille Chamoun was a strong [Christian] president and his term ended in civil war. [President-elect] Bashir Gemayel was assassinated and President Amine Gemayel’s term also ended with civil war,” Jumblatt explained.

The Progressive Socialist Party leader said his backing of MP Henry Helou for president reflected his dedication to the legacy of moderation dating back to late MP Pierre Helou, Henry’s father.

Lebanon has been without a president since May 25, when the term of President Michel Sleiman expired.

Geagea, the leader of the Lebanese Forces, announced his candidacy in April.

Aoun, Geagea’s rival, is trying to win Hariri’s support for his presidential bid but Hariri’s Future bloc and the March 14 coalition have repeatedly said that Geagea was their only candidate.

The March 8 coalition has hinted that it supports Aoun, who heads the Free Patriotic Movement, but has yet to announce it publicly.

In a bid to break the deadlock, Geagea said Monday he was ready to endorse a list of candidates he said was put forth by the Maronite Church to end the vacuum in Lebanon’s top Christian post.

He cited former ministers Damianos Kattar, Roger Dib and Ziad Baroud as the candidates suggested by the Maronite Church.

But the Maronite Patriarchate denied in a statement Tuesday that such a list existed.

The church also said it had not named anyone for the presidency and that it did not support any particular candidate.

Geagea also voiced readiness to agree with Aoun and other March 8 parties on two other presidential candidates for Parliament to vote on. MP Nabil Nicholas, from Aoun’s bloc, told The Daily Star that his group would meet this week to announce a stance on Geagea’s proposal.

Meanwhile, MP Hikmat Dib, also from Aoun’s bloc, told a local television station that he opposed selecting a candidate merely to fill the presidential vacuum.

Dib said his group did not mind sitting down with the Lebanese Forces to convince it of its opinion.

He said that Aoun’s attempt to garner the backing of Hariri aimed at securing the most support possible for the new president.

For his part, Kataeb party leader Amine Gemayel said the presidency was the “mother institution” that paved the way for addressing other problems in the country, insisting that all efforts should go toward the election of a new president.

Speaking to reporters after visiting Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai, Gemayel criticized lawmakers boycotting the parliamentary sessions to elect a new head of state, calling it “unethical for the sake of the Constitution, the nation and Parliament.”

Meanwhile, the French Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson Romain Nadal dismissed remarks made by Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah last week, in which he said that French officials proposed to Iran a new political system in Lebanon which gives rise to a tripartite formula dividing power between Christians, Sunnis and Shiites. This would replace existing equal power sharing between Muslims and Christians stipulated in the 1989 Taif agreement, which ended Lebanon’s 1975-90 Civil War.

Nadal stressed that France respected the Lebanese political system in its current form. “At the end, we support all what the Lebanese want. If they want a tripartite formula, only then we will support it.”

Rai also received France’s ambassador to Lebanon, Patrice Paoli, who stressed France’s support for the Taif Accord.

“We heard many wondering about France’s stance. These questions are unfounded, as France’s stance is very clear. From the beginning, we support the Constitution and Lebanese institutions and we call for the respect and implementation of Constitutional laws including all items agreed upon in Taif [agreement],” Paoli said.

Separately, Jumblatt, Speaker Nabih Berri, MP Fouad Siniora and other politicians telephoned Geagea to extend their condolences for the passing away of his father Farid, who died earlier Tuesday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 11, 2014, on page 4.




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