Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun on Tuesday announced that a political “deal” to extend the parliament's mandate has been already reached among the various parties, noting that Lebanon cannot join an international coalition that might be aimed at confronting another coalition.
“My nomination has been submitted and all options are on the table. If today's statements turn out to be true, then there will be an extension of the parliament's term as we were expecting, but we have submitted our nominations in order not to leave anything to chance,” Aoun said in an interview on OTV, only hours before the deadline to file candidacies ended.
“Our stance has not changed and we're with holding the elections. We will consider filing a challenge (before the Constitutional Council) if an extension occurs,” Aoun added.
He said his bloc is against any extension of the legislature's term, lamenting that the majority of blocs “want an extension.”
“We want a new electoral law,” Aoun stressed.
He said Speaker Nabih Berri has not totally rejected extension, “because he said he rejects extending the term of a non-functional parliament.”
“This means that he would accept extending the term of a functional parliament and I believe that the deal has been already made,” Aoun added.
“We are ready for elections should they take place,” he said.
Turning to the issue of the stalled presidential election, Aoun said the line-up might be different in the new parliament should legislative polls take place.
“It may call for the election of a new president and in my opinion, the current mechanism for electing the president is very futile,” Aoun added.
“The president who should represent the Lebanese people cannot be 'a doorman in Baabda' and nothing at all prevents granting him powers,” he said.
Asked about his argument that he should be elected president because he has the biggest Christian bloc in parliament, Aoun replied: “Where should we get the president from? From Somalia? Denying the president's popular representation is a crime against democracy.”
“I have not proposed any constitutional amendment and I don't have the capability to do it, so why are they considering my election as a coup against Taef (Accord)?” Aoun asked, referring to his critics.
He revealed that negotiations with al-Mustaqbal movement over the presidential vote had stopped “when they proposed extending (former president Michel) Suleiman's term.”
“As for the issue of (parliamentary) elections, I proposed proportional representation and I didn't receive an answer from Mustaqbal.”
“I'm not impeding the presidential vote and I told everyone who asked me that I don't mind that a president be elected in parliament, but I have the right not to elect anyone,” the FPM leader went on to say.
He added: “I will not relinquish the confidence placed in me by the people and I may lose the battle but I won't give up the presidency.”
Describing himself as a “reformist man,” Aoun noted that drastic changes occur in all countries during crises.
“No one should say 'this is not the right time' for electing the president by the people,” he added, referring to his recent proposal to resolve the presidential crisis.
Asked about reports that his supporters are arming themselves under the excuse of confronting the Islamic State group and similar organizations, Aoun said “it is not a secret that all Bekaa border towns are monitoring what's happening and that everyone has a rifle at their home.”
“All people there have armed themselves as a precaution,” he said.
“I don't fear a return to the 1975 war as there is unity among Shiites, Sunnis and Christians, who are guarding side by side. There is no threat because the enemy is external,” Aoun added, referring to the IS.
Commenting on the U.S.-led efforts to form an international coalition aimed at confronting the threat posed by the IS, which has seized control of vast swathes of Iraq and Syria, Aoun said he does not believe the aforementioned axis has reached its wanted size.
“It must include all states that are directly affected, which means Iraq and Syria, and no one must be excluded,” Aoun stressed.
“As Lebanese, we cannot be in a certain axis against another axis. We are certainly against terrorism and we hope the U.N. will oversee all military operations against terrorism,” he added.
He also warned that the war against terror “must be comprehensive or else it will turn into a war over influence.”
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