BEIRUT Lebanon’s Maronite patriarch on Saturday urged the political factions to elect a new president, successfully throwing his weight behind a energy-sharing plan that would make an ally of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad head of state.
The head of the Maronite Christian neighborhood, Patriarch Beshara al-Rai, met leaders of Christian political parties this week, like the touted candidate Suleiman Franjieh, right after Saudi Arabia lent its backing to the program.
“I contact on the political blocs to move responsibly, objectively and mindfully toward this new, significant initiative in order to elect a president,” he said at a mass north of Beirut and quoted by Lebanon’s National News Agency.
Rai urged parties to “rise above individual and factional interests” in order to fill the post, which has been vacant for 18 months. He hoped progress could be wrapped up by the finish of the year.
The lack of president has contributed to a political crisis that has paralyzed state institutions, such as the government which has been unable to take basic decisions. Political rivalries have been exacerbated by the war in neighboring Syria.
The proposal, tabled by Sunni politician Saad al-Hariri, would see him return to Lebanon as prime minister and make Maronite politician Franjieh president. Hariri is backed by Saudi Arabia, while Franjieh is a family members friend and close ally of Assad, who is backed by Saudi’s regional rival Iran.
Under Lebanon’s sectarian power-sharing technique, the president need to often be a Maronite Christian. Two other politicians, Michel Aoun and Samir Geagea, have been vying for the post, but neither has been able to garner the cross-celebration consensus required.
Franjieh stated late on Wednesday his candidacy was not but official but he was waiting for Hariri to formally endorse it.
(Reporting by John Davison Editing b y Richard Balmforth)