Lebanon News

Aoun: Presidential void can prove disastrous

File - MP Michel Aoun speaks during a press conference in Rabieh, Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2012. (The Daily Star/Charbel Nakhoul, HO)

BEIRUT: Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun warned Tuesday a prolonged presidential vacuum in Lebanon would push the country into an “explosive” political situation.

Meanwhile, Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt flew to Paris and is expected to meet Former premier Saad Hariri Friday, Future Movement sources told The Daily Star on condition of anonymity.

The sources denied that the two leaders would discuss the possibility of supporting a consensus presidential candidate.

“Speculation that Hariri and Jumblatt will discuss backing a consensus presidential candidate is not true,” one source said. “Discussing such an issue is in the hands of Christian parties and [those] who represent them. The role of Muslim parties is a helping rather than a decisive factor.”

“The decision of the Future Movement in this regard has been announced in public: It supports the candidate that Christians agree on and is backed by the [Maronite Patriarchate] in Bkirki,” the source added.

Aoun warned of a worsening political situation in Lebanon if a president is not elected promptly. “If we reach parliamentary polls [scheduled for November] before holding the presidential election, then the political situation in Lebanon will explode,” he said in a TV interview.

But Aoun reiterated that his bloc would continue to boycott Parliament sessions if the current presidential candidates remain.

“I won’t go to Parliament as long as the candidates are still the same. We are not playing, we tried these candidates and no one won,” he said.

Aoun was referring to Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, a presidential hopeful backed by the March 14 coalition, and MP Henry Helou, who is supported by the PSP. Neither garnered enough votes to win during an election round held in April.

“I can be a consensus president, let he who can do so submit his candidacy as well,” Aoun said.

He said he had a high chance of becoming president, claiming he was the most popular Christian and “even Maronite” leader in the country. Aoun began talks with the Future Movement earlier this year in a bid to win its support for presidency, arguing that he was in need of wide support to be able to rule the country.

“There were mutual intentions between us and the Future Movement to have relations,” Aoun explained. “Talks with the Future Movement were based on the fact that the current situation was unbearable.”

Aoun expressed his opposition to an initiative made by Geagea last week to break the political deadlock.

Geagea proposed that he and Aoun nominate two presidential candidates other than themselves and vote for them in Parliament.

“I already gave this confidence to President Michel Sleiman,” he said in reference to his support for Sleiman’s candidacy in 2008. “I won’t make this deadly mistake again. I expressed regret and apologized to people.”

Parliament has failed six times to elect a successor to Sleiman, with the blocs of Aoun and his allies boycotting the sessions claiming there was no candidate who could win the votes of rival Lebanese parties.

A seventh session called for by Speaker Nabih Berri Wednesday will not be able to convene for the same reason.

Separately, U.N. Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman expressed regret at Lebanon’s failure to elect a president on time.

“All of us regret the fact that there is vacancy in the presidency now because it’s important that at any time Lebanon’s constitutional bodies have continuity,” Feltman told reporters on the sidelines of an international conference to support the Lebanese Army which convened in Rome Tuesday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 18, 2014, on page 1.




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