Berri Avoids Dispute with Aoun over Extension But Values Opinion on Compromise Candidate

Speaker Nabih Berri has avoided a disagreement with Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun over his stance from the extension of parliament's mandate but said that the lawmaker has a valuable opinion on a consensual presidential candidate.

As Safir daily on Tuesday quoted Berri as saying that Aoun is an “added value to the joint strategic choices.”

Both Berri and Aoun are allied with Hizbullah in the March 8 camp.

The FPM chief has recently angered the speaker for promising him to attend a parliamentary session on the extension of the legislature's term but later boycotting it.

The Change and Reform bloc of Aoun and the Kataeb party MPs boycotted the session for considering the extension illegal.

But 95 MPs voted on the draft-law earlier this month. This was the second time parliamentarians extended their own terms, giving them a full eight years in power— double their allowed mandate.

Berri quipped at the boycott of the Change and Reform, asking: “If this parliament, whose term has been extended, agreed to elect Aoun as a president, would he accept the result or reject it?”

But he stressed that the FPM leader would have the strongest opinion in choosing any compromise candidate for having the biggest representation of Christians.

Aoun has never officially announced his candidacy for the presidency. But Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said during a speech earlier this month that the lawmaker was the March 8 camp's sole candidate.

The majority of March 8 lawmakers have boycotted sessions aimed at electing a head of state, causing a vacuum at Baabda Palace since the expiry of President Michel Suleiman's term in May.



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