FPM urges support for Hariri’s bid to end presidential vacuum

BEIRUT: The Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) urged Wednesday rival political factions to facilitate former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s efforts to end the presidential vacuum as the Maronite church reiterated its opposition to Speaker Nabih Berri’s call for a comprehensive political deal prior to the election of a president.

“We are witnessing a very positive initiative by Hariri to solve the presidential vacuum…thus we call on rival political factions to allow his efforts to succeed,” FPM MP Ibrahim Kanaan said in a veiled reference to reports that the Future Movement leader is considering nominating FPM founder MP Michel Aoun for the presidency.

Kanaan made his remarks following a meeting with Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea at the latter’s residence in Maarab.

Geagea, who nominated his former long-time political rival Aoun for the presidency, has encouraged his ally Hariri to follow suit in a bid to break the political deadlock.

During an interview on Tuesday night, Aoun said he believed that Geagea was sincere in supporting his presidential bid while also stressing that Hezbollah backed his election. Geagea has claimed on several occasions that Hezbollah was not sincere in his support for Aoun, arguing that the Shiite party would have otherwise pressured his allies namely Berri to vote for the FPM founder.

In his interview, Aoun downplayed disagreements with Berri, saying his relation with the speaker is “good in principle” but noted that the presidential election should not be tied to any package deal. “Priority now goes to the election of a president and the approval of a new electoral law. All other issues can wait until after parliamentary elections take place,” he said.

Echoing Aoun, Maronite bishops reiterated Wednesday the church’s opposition to tying the election of a president to a package deal that includes an agreement over a new electoral law, the makeup of the upcoming Cabinet and the distribution of ministerial portfolios.

“In order to fulfill his national duties, the president must be liberated from all constraints,” a statement issued by the Maronite Bishops Council said following their monthly meeting in Bkirki.

The bishops also stressed the need to abide by the National Charter, which guarantees equal power-sharing between Christians and Muslims, adding that this charter should not be brushed aside for personal interests.