02/08/2016, 10.01
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Maronite Patriarch: Without a President, Lebanon is on brink of collapse

Card. Rai makes fresh appeal for election of President of the Republic. The prelate denounces political and parliamentary factions who "impede" choice. Vacancy also concerns international diplomacy. UN special envoy: do not take the "stability" of the nation for granted. Parliament in session today.

Beirut (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Religious leaders, international diplomats and civil society have launched a fresh appeal to the Lebanese Parliament to elect a new president, a position now vacant for over 20 months.

In his Sunday homily Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rai said that the people "deserve to live in a country that respects their rights." In recent weeks, the explicit support for the candidacy of former general Michel Aoun by the head of the Lebanese Forces, Samir Geagea, had hoped - so far in vain - in a development of the situation.

Returning to the failure to elect the head of state, Card. Rai addressed the  political and parliamentary factions "who for too long" have hindered the presidential election", to find an agreement to save a nation "on the brink of collapse". The country, he added, must seek "the common good" and respond "to the Constitution, the National Covenant (under which the presidency must go to a Maronite), and "the democratic systems adopted by Lebanon and mentioned in the preamble" of the Charter.

Lebanon has been without a head of state since May 2014, when the term of outgoing President Michel Suleiman ended.  Since then the Parliament and the blocks within it have failed to reach consensus on the choice of his successor.

An open clash between two rival fronts has prevented the election of the head of state: March 8 (Hezbollah Shiites, close to Iran) and the block of  March 14 (led by Saad Hariri, backed by Saudi Arabia).

Parliament is due to be in session today. However, according to experts it will end with a new stalemate and President Nabih Berri will be forced to once again postpone the vote for lack of quorum.

The failure to appoint a new president in Lebanon also concerns the international community. The UN special coordinator for Lebanon Sigrid Kaag sounded the alarm, saying that it may already be too late to save the country.

The diplomat notes that "it is hard to" observe "the wear and tear" caused to the institutions and to the national economy, but the effects are already present and in the long run will become more and more evident. "The stability of Lebanon – she adds - should not be taken for granted."

The UN special coordinator also clarified that "external diplomatic pressure", in particular the United Nations, is unwelcome and the Lebanese Parliament alone must reach agreement. The presidency is an important position "for the Christian component" and "for the whole country." "It is important for Lebanon - said Sigrid Kaag - not to waste too much time, because it could pay a very high price at all levels".


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