The chances for Lebanon to find consensus on a successor to Michel Aoun, whose term in office ended on Monday, have dropped after Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri canceled a previous invitation for major political parties to meet and try to reach an agreement on a presidential candidate.
The head of the Parliament's office said in a brief statement on Wednesday that Berri will not be able to call for dialogue “following the opposition expressed by two groups: the Lebanese Forces and the Free Patriotic Movement.”
The two most prominent Christian blocs, who hold considerable weight in parliament, have rejected Berri’s call given that their leaders are natural candidates for the presidency.
Christian politician and former minister Sejaan Azzi, in statements to Al Jadeed news channel, said that “now was the time to elect a president, not the time for dialogue.”
Considering the rejection of influential Christian parties to engage in dialogue, sources close to Berri confirmed that he respects the blocs’ choices.
“Calling for dialogue is not a crime. It remains a virtue despite the reluctance of some parties,” the sources, who requested anonymity, affirmed to Asharq Al-Awsat.
“If dialogue is not a way to solve crises, then how else can they be approached?” the sources asked.
They highlighted that Berri’s call for dialogue, which was limited to a single clause, namely the election of a president, is based on efforts “to reunite the Lebanese.”
The sources emphasized that nothing could unite the Lebanese if the advantage of dialogue is lost.
Shutting the door on consensus will likely lead to an electoral showdown in Parliament, sources told Asharq Al-Awsat, noting that the candidate who gets the highest vote wins if there is quorum.