Will Lebanon’s presidential vacuum demand foreign help?

During his visit to the Lebanese town of Jezzine last week, Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rahi commented on the presidential vacuum.

“It’s a shame that a president hasn’t been elected yet. Let’s pray for officials to carry out their constitutional responsibilities of electing a president,” he said.

“[People] used [to underestimate the presidential post] and ask what the president’s jurisdictions are anyway; however, it turned out that everything has been obstructed as a result of presidential vacuum. Legislation and the government’s work have been hindered and chaos has reached (all state) institutions.”

It’s the responsibility of the leaders to prove that they have the upper hand regarding the process of electing a president.

Nayla Tueni

On top of the agenda of the national dialogue sessions, which recently resumed in Lebanon after a long time, is the attempt to reach a consensus on electing a president for this headless republic.

Deliberate obstruction

Some parties are perhaps glad that electing a president has been obstructed, as it helps serve their aim of imposing a constituent assembly. These parties continue to obstruct the finalizing of several state appointments in the hope of making the general assembly a fait accompli. Others however seek to obstruct electing a president in the hope that circumstances change.

It’s impossible to reach an agreement over the presidency amidst the presence of all these conditions. If some of those participating in the dialogue refuse to discuss other problems before finalizing the issue of the presidency, nothing will be achieved.

That failure would mean that the Lebanese leaders would be confessing that it’s not possible for them to reach any agreement – and hence that they’re incapable of reaching any domestic solutions.

This confession of failure would therefore lead to the summoning of foreign parties for help. This is the only available option the Lebanese people have, and they’ve perhaps used to this after the Ta’if Agreement designed to end the civil war.

It’s therefore the responsibility of the leaders at the dialogue table to prove that they deserve the posts they hold, that they are capable of reaching an agreement in the country’s best interests, and that they have the upper hand regarding the process of electing a president.

Otherwise, their failure will be collective. And their meeting will not diffuse tensions in the street, but will rather provide an excuse for people to take to the streets to demand their resignation.

This article was first published in an-Nahar on Sept. 21, 2015.
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Nayla Tueni is one of the few elected female politicians in Lebanon and of the two youngest. She became a member of parliament in 2009 and following the assassination of her father, Gebran, she is currently a member of the board and Deputy General Manager of Lebanon’s leading daily, Annahar. Prior to her political career, Nayla had trained, written in and managed various sections of Annahar, where she currently has a regular column. She can be followed on Twitter @NaylaTueni

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