Lebanon’s main opposition parties, led by the Lebanese Forces (LF) and the Kataeb, have criticized a proposal by Speaker Nabih Berri to hold a seven-day dialogue at the parliament ahead of open-ended sessions to elect a president.
Kataeb chief MP Sami Gemayel told Berri that the proposal to hold successive sessions to elect a president on the condition that the parties participate in dialogue is an acknowledgment that he was deliberately violating the Constitution.
“The implementation of the Constitution is not a political blackmail. Parliament is not your property; it belongs to the Lebanese people," Gemayel added.
MP Sethrida Geagea of the LF bloc criticized Berri for "insisting that he will not call for a presidential election session unless there is a prior agreement."
"This stance in itself is a major constitutional violation," Geagea said.
"This is a new chapter in the attempt of a group of Lebanese to impose their will on others, once through force and another through the abuse of authority," the MP added.
Berri's sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the initiative combines the parties' demands, given that one group calls for dialogue and another for open sessions to elect a president.
The sources also said that the initiative is within the context of the efforts of the French envoy to Lebanon, Jean-Yves Le Drian, who is supposed to visit Beirut this month. However, Berri's proposal was not coordinated with Le Drian.
As expected, Hezbollah and the Progressive Socialist Party will respond positively to Berri's call.
Similarly, the head of the Free Patriotic Movement, MP Gebran Bassil, welcomed the initiative, saying it was good and positive."
"Our condition ... to participate in the dialogue was that, once this dialogue is over and whatever the result, there must either be a consensus enshrined in an electoral session in Parliament, or we will accept the game of democratic competition in successive electoral sessions," Bassil said on Thursday.
Meanwhile, MP Ghassan Hasbani stressed it was futile to hold dialogue with Hezbollah and its allies, which are working to abolish institutions.
He told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Speaker must implement the Constitution, which is not subject to conditions.
Forces of Change MP Ibrahim Mneimneh told Asharq Al-Awsat that he welcomes the idea of dialogue in principle, but asked for more details before he takes a stance from Berri’s initiative.
He noted that all parties recognize that there must be a political settlement and understanding concerning the next president's work agenda, with guarantees for its implementation.
Member of the Development and Liberation bloc Kassem Hashem stressed that the dialogue proposed by Berri aims to facilitate the process of electing a president.
The MP explained that after seven days of dialogue, the president will be elected through ballots.
After meeting Berri on Friday, Deputy Speaker Elias Bou Saab described his initiative as "positive," considering that it may be the last opportunity for the Parliament to elect a president in 2023.
Bou Saab warned that no one can predict how long the vacuum will extend if the parties do not reach an understanding.
He called upon the parties rejecting Berri’s initiative to present an alternative to elect a president.