Beirut- Former Lebanese President Michel Suleiman had departed presidency leaving the post the way he received it, empty. In, 2008 Suleiman had risen to presidency, after it being vacant for months. Stepping down in 2014, Suleiman left the seat with no successor for the reason that local parties haven’t agreed on a common candidate who would rise to power.
After two years of presidential vacancy, Suleiman breaks his silence from his home in Yarze, a town in Baabda District southeast of Beirut in Lebanon, and speaks to Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, in an exclusive interview held from the balcony overlooking the army base headquarters at which he spent nine years of his life. Suleiman’s six years in presidency were brimming with several instabilities, which delivered Lebanon to more authoritative void.
Suleiman held the so-called Hezbollah responsible for presidential vacancy. He also accounted all political figureheads responsible for failing to find a solution for crises wearing out Lebanon and its people. One of many political deficiencies is local authorities and politicians failing to promote a president.
The former president expostulated propositions on establishing a new electoral law before voting for a new president, considering that the parliamentary session would not be lawful without a president present. Establishing an electoral law without a president would represents a constituent parliamentary assembly, explained Suleiman.
Following is a set of questions answered by former president Suleiman:
What has led to two years of presidential vacancy?
It is simply because we are failing to put the national best interest before personal gain, and breaking commitment to democracy. Each party is seeking to rise to power; however, there is a democracy-based system and elections by which we have to abide.
If we place personal interest and fail to implement democracy – which is realized upon electing a president- we then find ourselves swinging between suggestions on legal referendums and constitutional amendment.
This is not the first time we have faced presidential void, you have been assigned to a previously also vacant post, and have left it as such – with no successor- where does the issue stem from?
Yes, it is regrettable and is another reason to realize that we do not learn from previous mistakes. Vacancy had led to the 2008 conflict in Lebanon, when so-called Hezbollah militants alongside allies spread across both Beirut and Mount Lebanon, which later resulted to us going to Doha, Qatar to reach a settlement on presidential elections- given that at the time that my candidacy was approved and supported by many- delay was a result to conditions they imposed, and which I had refused.
When we argue the provision of a political “basket” – referring to a political arrangement on dividing power for a better solution in Lebanon- we will consequently obstruct elections for sure.
With no president present in order to lead the process for realizing a political “basket”; previously, I had refused a certain arrangement and that resulted in elections being put on hold by everyone, including my supporters. Democracy was not made for tribal-biased people, but was made for those who abide by its fundamentals the way it does to constitution and law. Democracy is a state which mankind appeals to. There are requirements and qualifiers for democracy to exist.
Is there a specific party to be held responsible for what has become of us now?
Of course, the so-called Hezbollah. Since the group obstinately declares its support to ally Free Patriotic Movement Founder Michel Aoun, who clearly declared his rejection to any president but himself.
Morally speaking, the so-called Hezbollah might have the right to support an ally. However, our homeland far and foremost is most important, even more imperative than an ally. I demand that the so-called Hezbollah attends electoral sessions and votes, why not? Or is it that when the majority of votes are not secured to play to the benefit of a certain ally, the group will not go to vote. I find that very odd.
Is vacancy going to extend further?
They have begun discussing parliamentary elections, which have raised a new subject, as if we have suspended dealing with the presidential vacancy. There should not be any other discussions diverting from those on presidential elections. All efforts should be directed towards this more pressing subject.
It surpasses the boundaries of logic to believe that we can pass a new election law without a president. Electoral laws are very explicit and influence the formation of authority for decades onward. They cannot be established without a president, who is the sole constitutional authority capable of raising objections against passed laws. Constitutionally, there is a major role-playing authority absent when a president is not incorporated in the process of issuing and legislating laws.