Joseph A. Kechichian/A new Junblatt twist for presidential elections


A new Junblatt twist for presidential elections
By Joseph A. Kechichian Senior Writer
August 29, 2014/ Gulf News

Beirut: Walid Junblatt, the leader of the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) and Druze za‘im [lord] seems to have abandoned his own candidate for the presidency, Aley deputy Henri Helou, in favour of former Minister Jean Obaid.
The surprising proposal, according to the pro-Hezbollah Al Akhbar daily, clarified Junblatt’s muddled stance. “I still back the name of Henry Helou as my first choice,” Junblatt allegedly told his visitors, though he underscored that the PSP and others would “eventually have to settle on the name of a consensual nominee after [Lebanese Forces Leader] Samir Geagea and [Free Patriotic Movement chief] Michel Aoun withdraw their candidacies.” Geagea, the March 14 nominated candidate, offered to withdraw in favour of another March 14 personality whereas Aoun — who has not declared as of today — was mum to these latest verbal acrobatics.
Why the Druze leader believed that Obaid could gather political arch-foes around his potential candidacy was not explained although Aoun brushed him off during their last meeting. Ironically, Junblatt’s latest permutation occurred less than 24 hours after he proposed an equally confused solution to break the current stalemate.
On Thursday, the Mukhtara za‘im suggested a “one-time constitutional amendment to shorten the presidential term to three years in exchange for electing a president from outside the March 8 and March 14 political coalitions.”
This nugget that perceived the constitution as a convenient smorgesboard that can be twisted for the conveniences of the moment was revealed by The Daily Star. According to the pro-March 14 English-language daily, Speaker Nabih Berri found merit in the idea, and even welcomed an equally untested “modern law” to hold parliamentary elections to improve the country’s democratic representation. Both men rejected the extension of parliament’s mandate that ends on November 20, 2014, before an agreement could be reached on the presidential election, though chances were near excellent that such a prolongation was the most logical way out of this self-created dilemma.
Interestingly, Al Akhbar further asserted that neither Bkirke [the seat of the Maronite Patriarchate] nor Sa’ad Hariri’s Future Movement vetoed a putative Obaid election, without informing its readers how it managed to know these truths.
Others jumped into the change – the constitution bandwagon, as General Michel Aoun proposed his own adjustment for direct elections of the president in 2 stages, while the Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Mar Bisharah Rai called for his own modification to keep the outgoing president in power in a caretaker status until such time when a successor was elected.
This measure was meant to avoid a vacuum in the country’s top Christian post although it was unclear whether such a measure could be retroactive to bring back former President Michel Sulaiman, whose six-year tenure ended on May 25. Earlier, Hezbollah advanced the notion that the time was right to hold a fresh constitutional convention, ostensibly to re-write the entire document and re-arrange the 1943 national charter.
While just about everyone toyed with the country’s enduring Constitution, what was truly ironic was the fact that so few parliamentarians and the country’s brilliant legal minds, wished to implement any of its articles. Few expected a felicitous outcome on September 2, when a solid majority of deputies were slated to stay away from parliament, thereby neglecting their constitutional duties to form a quorum and cast ballots.