POLICY Statement

June 15, 2023: ATFL Calls on the Lebanese Parliament to Urgently Elect A Reform-Oriented President

June 15, 2023

Washington, DC, June 15th, 2023 The American Task Force on Lebanon (ATFL), a leadership organization of Americans of Lebanese descent, welcomes Lebanon’s parliamentary session yesterday to elect a president. However, in spite of a promise to keep the session open by Speaker Berri, it adjourned prematurely, yet again denying the Lebanese people a functioning government capable of undertaking the reforms necessary to rescue the country from its current financial and political crises.   
We call on the Lebanese Parliament and all political actors to support a candidate for president who is free of corruption, capable of uniting the country, advocating for transparency and accountability, putting the interests of Lebanon’s people first, moving towards national unity, and implementing critical economic reforms.
Over the last several weeks, three bipartisan Congressional letters from senior US Senators and Representatives have also outlined their grave concerns over the lack of progress in electing the nation’s next president, calling for parliamentary leaders to not only open a legislative session to elect a president but also to keep it open through multiple rounds of voting in order to elect a president by majority vote. 
On April 25th, the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Jim Risch (R-ID), said, “We remain discouraged by the ongoing political deadlock, engineered by Hezbollah and its allies, like Nabih Berri, to wear down the opposition to its preferred candidate at the expense of candidates with broader support who are more willing to tackle Lebanon’s many challenges.” 
On May 30th, the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Congressmen Michael McCaul (R-TX) and Gregory Meeks (D-NY), said, “We also call on the Administration to use all available authorities, including additional targeted sanctions on specific individuals contributing to corruption and impeding progress in the country, to make clear to Lebanon’s political class that the status quo is not acceptable.”  
On June 12th, the Co-Chairs of the bipartisan US-Lebanon Friendship Caucus, Representatives Darrell Issa (R-CA), Darin LaHood (R-IL), and Debbie Dingell (D-MI), wrote, “If Parliamentary leaders and other political elites are unable to follow through on Lebanon’s own constitution, preserve a quorum, and allow the multiple rounds of balloting necessary for the selection of a president, the United States and our partners and allies in the region, must consider more serious measures.”  
The Biden Administration also made clear their position, when State Department Under Secretary Nuland tweeted, “(I) had a constructive call with Lebanese Speaker Berri about the urgency of electing a president and enacting legislation on critically needed IMF reforms. (I) appreciate his commitment to try to keep quorum and hold open electoral sessions as long as it takes to get the job done." 
ATFL President Ed Gabriel remarked, "We welcome Speaker Berri’s decision to hold a vote, but it appears he did not fulfill his commitment to Under Secretary Nuland to both open a session and hold it open for as long as it takes to get the job done. It is disappointing that the process of electing a president appears to be no closer to a resolution."

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