Lebanese presidential vacuum prolonged after Brexit instability and Hezbollah preoccupation with Syria

Published June 27th, 2016 - 08:00 GMT
Lebanon has been without a president for more than 18 months amid political deadlock. (AFP/File)
Lebanon has been without a president for more than 18 months amid political deadlock. (AFP/File)

The latest developments in Syria and Europe are expected to prolong Lebanon's long-running presidential vacuum, media reports said on Sunday.

"Hezbullah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah's speech (on Friday) has indicated that the presidential crisis will witness further deadlock," An Nahar newspaper quoted informed sources as saying.

"Nasrallah's stances were almost fully focused on the severe repercussions of Aleppo's battle, which the party is fighting in full force, although he devoted a significant portion of his speech to the crisis with the banking sector and the confrontation with Bahrain," the sources said, highlighting the absence of the presidential issue from Nasrallah's address.

The sources also noted that Nasrallah's remarks pour cold water on the optimism that has recently emerged among Free Patriotic Movement officials regarding a reported international drive to support the presidential bid of FPM founder MP Michel Aoun.

"It has been fully proven that the issue has not been put on the front burner and that it will not be part of Iran's bargains, neither with France nor with any other foreign side, seeing as the Iranian priorities were reflected in Sayyed Nasrallah's candid and clear announcement that Hezbullah's funds and arms come from Iran," the sources added.

Well-informed sources in Beirut meanwhile told Kuwait's al-Rai newspaper that it has become "unrealistic" to expect an imminent breakthrough in Lebanon's political crisis in light of "the shock of the British referendum that has pushed the West to change its priorities."

Britain voted to pull out of the European Union on Thursday, in a seismic blow to the bloc that triggered the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron and sent world financial markets into freefall. The move has been dubbed "Brexit" – a portmanteau of "British" and "exit".

The sources also told al-Rai that the Hezbullah-led March 8 camp, especially through Speaker Nabih Berri's remarks, appears to be pushing for a so-called "package deal" that involves agreements on the presidency, the government and the electoral law.

"They want to achieve gains at the expense of the Lebanese formula and its current balances and at the expense of the Taef Accord," the sources charged.

Meanwhile, high-ranking March 14 sources told the Kuwaiti al-Seyassah newspaper that Nasrallah's stances "highlight his decision to keep the entire Lebanese situation unsettled until the outcome of the expected battle in Aleppo becomes clear."

"The ongoing events in Syria and Iraq are expected to push Hezbullah to further intransigence on the domestic issues," the sources added.

Lebanon has been without a president since the term of Michel Suleiman ended in May 2014 and Hezbullah, the FPM and some of their allies have been boycotting the parliament's electoral sessions, stripping them of the needed quorum.

Al-Mustaqbal Movement leader ex-PM Saad Hariri launched an initiative in late 2015 to nominate Marada Movement chief MP Suleiman Franjieh for the presidency but his proposal was met with reservations from the country's main Christian parties as well as Hizbullah.

Hariri's move was followed by Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea's endorsement of his long-time Christian foe Aoun for the presidency after a rapprochement deal was reached between their two parties.


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