FPM, LF oppose tying presidential election to comprehensive deal

BEIRUT: The Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) and the Lebanese Forces (LF), Lebanon’s major Christian parties, opposed Tuesday tying the election of president to a comprehensive political settlement that includes an agreement over a new electoral law and the make-up of the upcoming Cabinet.

FPM President Gebran Bassil and LF leader Samir Geagea, who met on the sidelines of a visit to Bkirki where they separately held talks with Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai, criticized Speaker Nabih Berri’s “package deal” proposal.

“We have no problem seeking an agreement with other political factions. However, no conditions should be put in place prior to electing a head of state,” Bassil said.

He added that the FPM opposes an agreement over the distribution of ministerial portfolios in the upcoming Cabinet prior to the election of a president.

Geagea, on the other hand, said the speaker’s proposal violated the constitution, adding that FPM founder Michel Aoun didn’t negotiate a package deal with Future Movement leader Saad Hariri.

Geagea, who has sought to convince Hariri to back Aoun for the presidency, blamed Hezbollah for obstructing the presidential election, a statement echoed by the Future Movement leader during a visit Tuesday to Russia.

“We have undertaken several initiatives to put an end to the presidential void. However, until now, Hezbollah remains the main obstacle,” Hariri said following a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow.

Hariri’s visit to Moscow follows a series of meetings between the former prime minister and Lebanon’s political leaders in an attempt to end the presidential vacuum, which has crippled the country’s parliament and Cabinet.

In a defiant move toward the FPM, Prime Minister Tammam Salam called for a Cabinet session on Thursday, the first since ministers from the FPM and the Tashnaq party boycotted a September 8 meeting to protest the government’s failure to appoint new security chiefs.

The FPM has warned it would take to the threats if Salam convenes the Cabinet in the absence of the party’s ministers.