Source: L'Orient Today
Monday, April 4, 2022
The Maronite Patriarch Bechara al-Rai emphasized during his Sunday sermon that “a successful parliamentary election is the guarantee of a successful election of a new president, who is up to the challenges for the recovery of Lebanon.”
Here's what we know:
• Rai's remarks come ahead of legislative elections scheduled for May 15 and at a time when President Michel Aoun's detractors claim that his mandate has been catastrophic in a country that has been enduring a financial collapse for more than two and a half years. Aoun's term is set to end in October.
• “The people, as a whole, must vote for the best, if they want change and reform,” the prelate said. “This cannot be done if the citizens stay at home on the day of the election,” he warned.
• “Elections in democratic societies are an opportunity for people to bring about change for the better. Voting means change. Voting means choosing the best. Populism must not be the basis of elections,” he went on.
• Rai also called on the government of Prime Minister Najib Mikati to “hasten the implementation of economic and financial reforms, because the speed of the collapse is greater than the pace of these reforms.”
• The parliamentary elections are perceived by much of the population as well as the international community as a necessary step for change in Lebanon. Some observers fear a postponement of the elections under various pretexts, while the ruling parties, especially the Free Patriotic Movement founded by Aoun, are losing popularity.
• “There are big differences of opinion between the patriarch and the head of state,” a person close to Bkirki recently told L’Orient Today on condition of anonymity. “They diverge on important strategic issues. I will not say that the relationship between them is good. It is rather ordinary,” he said.
• The presidency and the Maronite church diverge first and foremost on Hezbollah’s weapons and the political positioning of a Lebanon that cannot define a clear foreign policy. For nearly two years, Rai has been pleading relentlessly for Lebanon’s neutrality in relation to regional conflicts, at a time when Hezbollah, a long-time ally of Aoun, is involved in these conflicts, in Syria or in Yemen, with the backing of its Iranian sponsor. Another issue on which Rai and the head of state differ is the legal proceedings against the central bank chief Riad Salameh and some banking institutions.