Future rejects Aoun, stays with Frangieh bid.
BEIRUT: The Future Movement's parliamentary bloc has decided to reject MP Michel Aoun's presidential bid, while reiterating its support for MP Sleiman Frangieh's candidacy, Future MPs said Monday, in a move diluting hopes for the founder of the Free Patriotic Movement to be elected head of state.
Aoun, Hezbollah's sole candidate for the presidency who is also backed by the Lebanese Forces and some March 8 groups, was reported to be counting on last-minute support from the Future bloc to boost his chances for being elected president.
The Future bloc's solid backing for Frangieh comes as Parliament failed Monday for the 43rd time in more than two years to convene to elect a president due to a lack of quorum, prompting Speaker Nabih Berri to set a new session for Sept. 7.
Frangieh, who is supported by Berri, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, MP Walid Jumblatt and some independent lawmakers, is standing against Aoun in the presidential race.
The decision to not support Aoun for the presidency was taken during the Future bloc's meeting last week that was chaired unexpectedly by Hariri on the eve of three days of national dialogue sessions that failed to make any breakthroughs in the more than 2-year-old presidential deadlock or the impasse over a new electoral law.
Aoun's presidential nomination figured high during the Future meeting with the majority of MPs opposing it.
Although former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, the head of the Future bloc, and other bloc members denied Monday that any vote on Aoun's candidacy was held, media reports said some 23 MPs were against Aoun and only three MPs supported him.
"MP Michel Aoun's candidacy was discussed during the meeting as part of a general review of the situation. There was no vote on Aoun's candidacy," Future MP Ammar Houri told The Daily Star.
Asked whether the bloc's final stance was to reject Aoun's candidacy, Houri said: "The bloc's final stance was to reaffirm commitment to supporting [former] Minister Frangieh's candidacy."
Future MP Mohammad Qabbani echoed a similar view, saying: "The majority [of Future MPs] voiced support for Frangieh's candidacy."
Houri, who was the first lawmaker to go down to Parliament Monday, lamented that only 31 MPs of the 128-member legislature showed up, well below the two-thirds majority (86 MPs) required for a quorum to convene the session. At last month's session, there were 42 MPs.
Lawmakers from Aoun's bloc, Hezbollah's bloc and some of its March 8 allies have been boycotting the electoral sessions, thus preventing a quorum. "I don't see any signs for an imminent breakthrough in the presidential crisis," Houri said.
Some MPs who were present in Parliament expressed regret and frustration over the repeated failure to elect a successor to former President Michel Sleiman, whose six-year term ended in May 2014.
"It is sad that we met today for the 43rd time to elect a president, but unfortunately, we were unable to secure a quorum," Siniora told reporters in Parliament after the abortive session.
"All lawmakers are duty-bound to participate in the election of a president. ... But there are some sides which insist on continuing the obstruction policy," he said, clearly referring to Aoun's bloc and Hezbollah's bloc, both of which have been accused by the Future Movement and the March 14 coalition of blocking the presidential vote with their boycott of electoral sessions.
Siniora stressed that the election of a president is the "master key" to resolving the country's political, security, economic and monetary problems.
Denying that any vote was held on Aoun's candidacy during the bloc's meeting, Siniora said: "So far, we are still committed to MP Sleiman Frangieh's candidacy. This is what I said also during the dialogue session."
Future MP Ahmad Fatfat, who had said he will never vote for Aoun, said his bloc cannot support the FPM founder because he is not a "consensual" candidate. Asked if the Future bloc is now more prone to supporting Aoun's candidacy, Fatfat said: "No, never. The bloc's opinion is clear. Gen. Aoun has said he is not a consensual or conciliatory candidate. How can the bloc adopt his candidacy? Our candidate is Sleiman Frangieh."
Kataeb Party leader MP Sami Gemayel expressed shame over the ongoing presidential vacuum. "Some have no sense of responsibility. What is required is a decision to elect a president," he told reporters in Parliament.
LF MP George Adwan linked the implementation of political reforms, such as the creation of a senate and administrative decentralization stipulated in the Taif Accord, to the presence of an elected president and a Parliament elected on the basis of true representation.
"After the election of a president and reactivating Parliament, we move to a new matter, which is the imposition of state authority on all its territories," Adwan told reporters in Parliament.
"The government doesn't have the exclusivity over the use of arms, nor does it control the decision over war and peace. A large Lebanese group thinks it can go to war and intervene in other countries without resorting to the state," he said, clearly referring to Hezbollah's involvement in the 5-year-old war in Syria.
"Therefore, rectifying the path begins from here, from the actual rise of the state and institutions, starting with the election of a president and a Parliament elected on a basis that takes into account true representation," Adwan said.
Commenting on proposed reforms discussed by rival leaders during three days of national dialogue last week, the Kataeb Party underlined that the election of a president is the key to implementing any reforms.
"The gateway to political reforms is the election of a president so that Parliament can exercise its duty to draft a modern electoral law and improve the political system," said a statement issued after the weekly meeting of the party's Political Bureau chaired by Gemayel.
It warned against any attempt to present the elected president with "a prearranged compromise over fateful issues that would undermine his role as a guarantor of Lebanon's unity."
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