Lebanon presidential deadlock continues

The Free Patriotic Movement has threatened to take to the streets if a president is not elected, while Future Movement Saad Hariri’s return to Lebanon has raised hopes the political impasse will be broken.


BEIRUT – Lebanon’s parliamentarians have failed once again to vote in a president, setting the stage for protests by Christian supporters of the Free Patriotic Movement, which wants its leader Michel Aoun elected to the post.


On Wednesday morning, the parliament attempted to hold a presidential vote for the 45th time since Michel Suleiman’s term came to an end in May 2014, however the required quorum was not achieved as the country’s political parties continue to remain deadlocked over the issue amid a broader deadlock that has also paralyzed the government.


The FPM previously warned that it would hold street protests on Wednesday as well as October 13 as part of a broader “escalation” if the parliament failed to elect a president, however the party’s president, Gebran Bassil, did not broach the topic during a Tuesday press conference.


Political momentum on the presidential vote has picked up since Future Movement leader Saad Hariri’s return to Lebanon amid reports the top Sunni figure might drop his endorsement of Marada Movement leader MP Sleiman Franjieh and instead back Aoun, who already counts on the support of the Lebanese Forces, an ally of the Future Movement.


Hariri met Monday with Franjieh in the Christian leader’s residence in northern Lebanese mountain village of Bnachii, after which Marada figures denied to the press that the Future Movement chief had changed his stance on the presidency.


FPM officials have voiced optimism over the possibility of Hariri nominating their leader, and while some unconfirmed media reports indicated he was open to the possibility, the Future Movement has yet to give any public indications it was ready to back Aoun.


In a statement Tuesday night, the Future Movement’s parliamentary bloc announced that Hariri was starting talks “with all parties” aimed at “speeding up the election of a president,” while also blaming Hezbollah for the deadlock.


Hezbollah, which supports Aoun, in turn has blamed the Future Movement for the failure to elect a new president, calling on the party to support the FPM leader.


Franjieh, for his part, cautioned Hariri against nominating Aoun, writing on Twitter that such a step would be akin to then President Amin Gemayel's selection of Aoun in 1988 to be Lebanon's prime minister, a move that led to rival Lebanese government governments amid the country's civil war. 

Lebanon's parliament on Wednesday failed for the 45th time to elect a president. (AFP/Joseph Eid)

  • Beiruti

    FPM and Hezbollah boycott the sessions making the election of Aoun not possible, and then they go to the street to protest that Aoun has not been elected president. It sounds a little insane, does it not? But when you consider that the strategy being played out is not to elect Aoun but to force the capitulation of Hariri then it makes more sense. It is not enough for Iran and Hezbollah to put their candidate into office. This could be accomplished if they went to parliament and voted. With the LF, FPM, Hezbollah and allied parties, they would have enough to elect Aoun. But this is not the game. The game is to break Hariri as the leader of the Sunni parties and bring in a much weaker figure so that Aoun and Hezbollah can more dominate the government and bend it to Hezbollah's will.

    September 29, 2016