Beirut, Card. Raï meets Hezbollah: step towards appointment of new president
After months of tensions and (verbal) clashes, the two parties met in the first days of the new year. Leading the Shiite party delegation was the political leader Ibrahim Amine el-Sayed. At the centre of the talks was the future head of state and the need to resume dialogue. No veto - in words - by either party on names and candidates; in the background the international conference.
Beirut (AsiaNews) - A step in the direction of an agreement on the person of the future president of the Republic, after months of stalemate and political and institutional deadlock, with repercussions on the country, the economy and society, was taken on 2 January during a meeting between Maronite Patriarch Card. Beshara Raï, and a high-level delegation from Hezbollah, led by the head of the Shiite party's Political Council Ibrahim Amine el-Sayed (pictured).
The meeting was conciliatory in tone and full of willingness to strengthen contacts in this crucial period in the life of the nation. According to sources close to the two sides, the two main topics around which the meeting was held and repeatedly evoked were the election of the head of state and the need to resume dialogue between the two sides.
Patriarch Raï and Hezbollah agreed to consider the presidential term as the obligatory step for a full exit from the crisis. On this point, the cardinal reiterated to his visitors that Bkerké has no veto on the candidate, neither on Marada leader Sleiman Frangié, a declared candidate supported by Hezbollah, nor on army commander Joseph Aoun, nor on any other proposed figure.
In return, Hezbollah pledged to the Maronite Patriarch not to proceed with the presidential election without the approval or support of the Christian parties, led by the Maronite Patriarchal See itself. Knowing, moreover, that at this point in time, the very support of the See is lacking for the two major parliamentary alignments representing Christians: the Free Patriotic Movement (CLP) and the Lebanese Forces.
According to a source in the Hezbollah delegation reported by Scarlett Haddad of L'Orient-Le Jour, "this party will not accept any scenario that could lead Christians to feel excluded from the presidential election process" and that concerns "first and foremost their community".
At the same time, Patriarch Raï also asked Hezbollah to no longer be content, at the polling stations, to deposit a blank ballot in the ballot box, because in a democratic system such as Lebanon's, one should vote for a name. So that the candidate who gets the most votes can be elected. Hezbollah, according to the above-mentioned source, replied that 'its preference is for a preliminary agreement between the different parties, before voting' for any candidate.
Despite the differences, the Shiite party welcomed the patriarch's position, as it assured that the Maronite patriarchal see would not veto the election of Sleiman Frangié. In return, the cardinal received assurances that the pro-Iranian party will not veto the candidacy of army chief General Joseph Aoun.
The presidential seat has been vacant since 31 October. In all this time, 10 parliamentary sessions have been held for the election of a successor, but none of them has resulted in the choice of the new head of state, called to take Michel Aoun's place, knowing that the candidate must obtain 85 votes in the first round and at least 65 in the second. However, none of the candidates presented so far has been able to gather the number of votes and the quorum necessary to proceed to the election.
On the campaign of the Maronite Patriarch in favour of organising an international congress, it seems that the issue was not discussed, at least on an explicit level. The Hezbollah delegation was of the opinion, however, that "the fate of Lebanon should not be tied to regional and international developments", because the solution would then risk "taking too long". Not least because 'at the moment there is no indication that any party, regional or international, is clearly in favour of such a conference'.