Aoun: Beware of repeating the “presidential sin” of 2008

MP Michel Aoun (Photo: Marwan Tahtah)
In the absence of any serious external intervention to end the stalemate concerning the presidential elections – with the major powers limiting their efforts thus far to issuing a UN Security Council statement calling for the election of a new president – MP Michel Aoun has now warned against repeating the scenario where an undeserving candidate is installed in Baabda Palace.
For the second day in a row, the Lebanese were preoccupied with the vote that took place at the Syrian embassy in Lebanon, as part of the Syrian presidential election.
Amid the fractious and widely divided political reactions over the massive turnout of Syrian voters, which lasted throughout the early hours of Friday, the head of the Change and Reform bloc in parliament, MP Michel Aoun, has made a significant statement on the presidential elections in Lebanon. Aoun has been quoted as saying, “We have started to detect suspicious attempts to rig the presidential election, using suspicious tactics. It is as if what’s needed is to sugar coat the vacuum rather than agree on a worthy president.”
Sources close to Aoun explained this further, saying, “the General [Aoun] will not allow a repeat of the mistake – or sin – of 2008, when the constitution was trampled, institutions were subverted, and the country moved from vacuum to vacuum. Nor will he accept a repeat of the farce of extending the parliament’s term. The Lebanese all agree that Lebanon is not a farm [i.e. ungovernable], and that what is needed is a president who upholds the [National] Pact and its balances, upholds the constitution and all its provisions, and abides by the law when ruling.”
In this context, prominent parliamentary sources in the Future Movement claimed that Lebanon has now virtually entered an “ice age,” arguing that there are Lebanese parties awaiting a rapid settlement of the conflict in Syria thinking this would allow them to vote on a non-consensus candidate. For this reason, the sources said, these parties do not believe they have to make a deal over a consensus president like former President Michel Suleiman yet.
According to the same sources, none of the Arab, regional, or Western powers, with the exception of Iran, are currently active along this track in Lebanon. The sources said, “So far, we have not seen any exceptional movement on the ground that would impose on us the election of a president,” before recalling the latest speech of U.S. President Obama, which showed that Syria and Lebanon are not at the top of U.S. priorities, as the sources believe.
At a time when some figures within the Future Movement who were opposed to engagement with Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) are touting the idea that the rapprochement is now over, other sources in the Future Movement told Al-Akhbar that there were those in the movement who believe the scenario of electing Aoun president has not been abandoned, but rather deferred. The sources even said that the power vacuum has had positive, albeit simple, effects, having forced all actors to rethink their positions. The power vacuum helped the Future Movement and the FPM better develop their stances on many issues, the latest of which being the decision to boycott legislative sessions.
For his part, former President Michel Suleiman said that the tendency to extend the president’s terms in Lebanon had made him declare his categorical rejection of it for the last two and a half years, purporting that this was something known to French President Francois Hollande, as well as the ambassadors of the five permanent members of the Security Council and the ambassadors of friendly nations.
Meanwhile, the cabinet may hold its first session today, May 30, without a president, to be chaired instead by Prime Minister Tammam Salam who has called on all ministers to attend the session. However, FPM members have stated that FPM ministers want to be involved in setting the agenda of cabinet sessions as part of offsetting the absence of a president, something that Prime Minister Salam objects to.
In this regard, former Prime Minister Najib Mikati has said, “The cabinet is fully entitled to fill the void. The cabinet must take decisions by consensus or by vote, according to the constitution. The ministers who do not vote yes must sign the decisions that receive the needed votes anyway.”
For his part, Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil said on Thursday that today’s session should be held, since Prime Minister Salam was relying on the constitution in calling on the government to convene, and pointed out that Prime Minister Salam had briefed the ministers on the session’s agenda. Then in what is an interesting stance alluding to the possibility of disrupting the work of the cabinet in the future, Khalil said, “If obstructionism in the parliament continues, then there is a big question mark about the legitimacy of the continuation of the government,” before he added, “our democratic system is based on the separation and cooperation of powers. Parliament has two functions, one legislative and one regulatory. When the regulatory function is not exercised, this means that we have a government with no oversight over its work, which is very dangerous.”
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.
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