Bassil Urges New Army Chief, Respect for 'National Pact' in Picking Presidentإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil stressed Tuesday that the FPM insists on the appointment of a new army chief and called for respecting sectarian balances in the presidential vote.
“We support the appointment of a new army chief and we're against extending the term of the incumbent commander in an illegal manner. It is not impossible to agree on a new commander,” said Bassil after the weekly meeting of the Change and Reform bloc in Rabieh.
“We insist on the appointment of a new army commander and we will have a response” should there be a term extension, the FPM chief warned.
“Last year they said that the problem was that the proposed candidate was General Aoun's relative but what is the problem this year?” Bassil asked, referring to Chamel Roukoz, the former commander of the Commando Regiment and FPM founder MP Michel Aoun's son-in-law.
“The army has officers that are capable of assuming its command,” Bassil added.
On July 31, a media report said the FPM intends to turn Prime Minister Tammam Salam's cabinet into a “caretaker cabinet” should the term of Army Commander General Jean Qahwaji be extended by another year.
“Amid the circulated reports about the inclination of Defense Minister Samir Moqbel to extend the army chief's tenure, FPM officials have informed the premier that the movement intends to force the cabinet to act in caretaker capacity should Qahwaji's term be prolonged,” An Nahar newspaper quoted unnamed sources as saying.
The sources revealed that the FPM leadership is accusing Moqbel of resorting to “double standards” seeing as “a new chief of staff will be appointed while the army chief's term will be extended.”
The term of the chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Walid Salman, ends in August while that of Qahwaji expires in September. Qahwaji's retirement had been postponed in September 2013 and his term was instead extended for two years.
Turning to the issue of the stalled presidential vote, Bassil emphasized that the FPM will only accept a president elected in a manner that respects the 1943 National Pact, which is an unwritten agreement that set the foundations of modern Lebanon as a multi-confessional state.
“We are not clinging to General Aoun as a person and we are ready to endorse another candidate when people choose someone else,” the FPM chief added.
He also noted that his movement will not accept another extension of the parliament's term or holding the next parliamentary polls under the 1960 electoral law.
Lebanon has been without a president since the term of Michel Suleiman ended in May 2014 and Hizbullah, Aoun's Change and Reform bloc 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, who is close to Saudi Arabia, 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.
The supporters of Aoun's presidential bid argue that he is more eligible than Franjieh to become president due to the size of his parliamentary bloc and his bigger influence in the Christian community.