Lebanese officials are beginning to consider the names of presidential candidates
Lebanese political blocs have made a “cautious” effort to discuss potential presidential candidates to succeed Michel Aoun, whose term ends in about 80 days.
In general, the President is expected to be “open” to all parties and blocs, enjoy “internal political consensus” and be able to reach out to the international community and put Lebanon “on the right path of recovery”. .
The presidential election requires the presence of two-thirds of the 128-member parliament to achieve the desired quorum. A candidate is declared the winner after receiving more than two-thirds of the votes in the first round.
This usually requires agreements between different political blocs, rivals and allies alike. Discussions to reach such agreements began about a month ago.
MPs from the civilian protest movement for change have been discussing the characteristics of potential candidates for the past few weeks without delving into names, sources monitoring the discussions said.
Some of the Change’s 13 lawmakers are in contact with opposition political forces and others to gather their views and try to reach possible deals on the elections, the sources told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Change MPs agree with traditional political forces on some issues and disagree on others, namely that the president must not be a partisan or military figure.
The latter position is at odds with the Lebanese Armed Forces, which support the appointment of army commander Joseph Aoun if a consensus is reached on him.
Some Change MPs agree with the LF, Kataeb and the Progressive Socialist Party on a candidate who is “sovereign” – that is, a person not affiliated with Iran – and supports the independence of the judiciary, which they claim as the basis of every State that strives for transparency, accountability and fighting corruption.
They are also targeting a president who would approve the financial and economic recovery plan.
Change MPs have stressed their openness to all non-partisan figures.
MP Ibrahim Mneimneh told Asharq Al-Awsat that talks are ongoing.
He said he wants a president elected who drives reform and has a political and economic vision that “gives hope to the people.”
The president must be a centrist who does not belong to any of the regional powers, he added.
“He must be loyal to Lebanon,” he stressed. He must also enjoy international relations and be accepted by the international community so that he can mend Lebanon’s relations with Arab and friendly nations, which have been damaged in recent years.
On the reluctance to nominate a military person, Mneimneh explained that Change MPs prefer to separate the military from politics.
“We prefer the President to be a civilian,” he noted.
“We hope to be united on the nomination of a president,” he said, citing the split that has emerged among Change MPs over the past few months over the nomination of a prime minister.
As the debate over the presidential candidates gathers momentum among the LF, Kataeb and other blocs, Hezbollah has largely remained silent.
The Iran-backed party has yet to endorse a candidate, despite its alliance with the Free Patriotic Movement, which is led by MP Gebran Bassil and whose founder is President Aoun, and close ties to Marada movement leader Suleiman Franjieh, a potential candidate Candidate.
The traditional parties each seem to have their own characteristics of what a candidate should be like.
The LF considers its leader Samir Geagea a candidate for the presidency and does not want a candidate from the March 8 camp to be elected.
The Marada movement believes that a candidate must be a consensual figure. Speaker Nabih Berri’s Shia Amal movement believes the president must respect Islamic, Christian and national views. This position aligns with former Prime Minister Fuad Siniora, who believes that the presidential election is not a purely Christian affair.
The FPM, meanwhile, believes that the President must enjoy popular representation that “reflects the political national will expressed by the people in general elections”.
“What good is democracy, elections and political work if the concept of respect for popular representation is ignored?” says the movement.