Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—There have been renewed calls for negotiations between senior Lebanese politicians ahead of a January deadline after parliament failed, for the 16th time of asking, to elect a new head of state this week. The Lebanese parliamentary speaker postponed the new session until January 7 following a lack of quorum over the vote, with March 8 Alliance legislators continuing to boycott the vote.
March 8 Alliance presidential candidate Michel Aoun tied negotiations over his nomination to the fate of Lebanon after the country passed the 200-day mark without a president this week. Former president Michel Suleiman’s term in office ended on May 25.
Aoun called for negotiations over “the survival of the republic,” warning that he has no intention of withdrawing his nomination unless there are “key changes” in how the state is run.
“The problem is not over electing a certain person as president of the republic but rather over electing the republic and the survival of the republic,” the Free Patriotic Movement party leader said in a press conference following Tuesday’s parliamentary session.
“I will only negotiate with anyone according to this principle, or else I will stay in the [presidential] race,” he added.
Future Movement MP Ahmed Fatfat criticized Aoun’s comments, saying that comparing the presidential race to the fate of the republic is nothing more than an attempt to secure the “highest political price” for the appointment of a “consensus” president. “Aoun has finally recognized that his presidential ambitions will not come true,” Fatfat said.
While the Hezbollah-led March 8 Alliance is backing Aoun’s presidential bid, the Future Movement-led March 14 Alliance continues to support Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea.
“Aoun is well aware that the time is not right to talk about a new system of government in light of what is happening in the region and the current balance of power. He is also aware that this ‘other’ system of government would consecrate authority through force of arms [Hezbollah] on the ground,” Fatfat added.
In his earlier press conference, Aoun claimed that the failure of parliament to secure a new president was indicative of a wider failure within Lebanon’s political system. “There is no equal power-sharing in the parliament. There is no partnership or balance and there is no electoral law that respects the stipulations of the National Accord document. There is no balance in implementing the developments projects, and in short, the main articles of the Taif Accord are not being implemented,” Aoun said.
Aoun warned that the Taif Accord, which virtually ended Lebanon’s decades-long civil war and set the stage for Lebanon’s quota-based political system, is under threat. “The Taif Accord is not being implemented and the malicious approach is not ethical,” he said.
However Lebanese MP Farid Al-Khazan, who is a member of Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement, denied that the presidential candidate is seeking to secure political gains through fear-mongering over the fate of the republic.
“There are no indications that we are on the verge of securing an agreement over the election of a new president, despite the efforts of international envoys,” Khazan told Asharq Al-Awsat.
The Free Patriotic Movement parliamentarian said any solution regarding the current stalemate over the election of a new president must come from the Lebanese themselves, not the international community.
“The primary role regarding the issue of the presidency must be for the political parties inside Lebanon to play, not for regional or international players,” he added.