February 1, 2016


Can Hariri coexist with a strong Christian president in Lebanon? (HALIM SHEBAYA, 1 February 2016, Open Democracy)

As per Lebanese custom, the president should be Maronite (Eastern Catholic) and is elected by the convening of parliament with a minimum of a two-thirds quorum. This quorum has been unavailable since Aoun (backed by March 8 coalition) has refused to send his parliamentary bloc without the assurance that he - or someone he nominates - is elected as president.

Geagea's endorsement does not necessarily mean that Aoun enjoys majority support in parliament. The Lebanese Forces currently hold eight seats (this is expected to increase during the next elections) and he would need to convince some of his allies to secure Aoun's successful bid.

Former-PM Saad Hariri's endorsement would be enough, as his is the largest bloc in parliament. However, Hariri has recently decided to nominate one of Syrian President Assad's closest friends in Lebanon, Sleiman Frangieh. Geagea's counter-nomination was in large part spurred by his seeming preference to see Aoun (his archrival) and not Frangieh (his rival in the north of Lebanon) as president.

It was also perhaps driven by a frustration in the manner in which Hariri - a Sunni - dealt with the presidential issue and nominated Frangieh without consulting his most prominent Christian ally. This was in contrast to the way in which Hizbullah's Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah steadfastly supported Aoun's nomination and refused to discuss the presidential portfolio, instead always pointing in the direction of Aoun as the linchpin of any resolution.

In this regard, one of the most common statements we would hear over the past years was that Christians are unable to unite and that that remains the reason behind their limited influence in the country. Reference is made to the other denominations that have a clear leader: Hariri for the Sunnis and Nasrallah for the Shi'a.

Another main issue voiced by Lebanese Christians is the following: why is it the case that Sunnis get to elect the PM, and the Shia get to choose the Speaker, whereas Christians are denied the right to choose their preferred strongest candidate as president?

Have national elections and let all the "Lebanese" decide.

Posted by at February 1, 2016 11:30 AM