BETH KERKE, Lebanon — On Wednesday, Syriac Maronite Patriarch Mor Bechara Boutros al-Rai received candidate for the Lebanese presidency May Rihani in Beth Kerke (Bkerke), Lebanon.
Rihani, who announced her candidacy for president only last week, discussed her political platform with the Patriarch.
Born in 1945 in Freikeh, close to Beirut, Rihani is the niece of Ameen Rihani and the daughter of notable Lebanese-American authors Albert and Ameen Rihani.
She spent 45 years living in the US and from 2016 to 2020 she directed the Kahlil Gibran Chair for Values and Peace at the University of Maryland. She held the position of Co-Chair of the UN Girls’ Education Initiative from 2008 to 2010.
Rihani is currently the director of the World Lebanese Cultural Union, a Washington D.C.-based organization that represents the Lebanese diaspora. She has also collaborated with Michel Moawad, an independent Zgharta MP and founder of the René Moawad Foundation, a self-described “development” NGO.
“Being a member of the diaspora does not mean that one is not affected by the situation in Lebanon,” Rihani said at the press conference announcing her candidacy. “On the contrary, both residents and expatriates are victims.”
The solution to Lebanon’s crisis is first and foremost political, she said. “Politicians in Lebanon have decided to consider the constitution as a point of view that one has the choice to adopt or not. The truth is that the fundamental law must be respected to the letter. If I am elected president, the constitution will be my reference point.”
Among her top priorities is ensuring the national constitution is not violated, especially regarding armed non-state actors such as Hezbollah:
“The constitution is clear. Only the Lebanese Army can bear arms. It is therefore undeniable that Hezbollah’s arsenal represents an unconstitutional phenomenon that must be addressed.”
She stated that she would open a line of communication with Hezbollah in order for the organization to surrender its weapons and allow certain militants to join the Lebanese Army. Additionally, Rihani stated that she will work to strengthen ties between Saudi Arabia and Lebanon. “Lebanon needs to be integrated into the modern, globalized Arabism we are witnessing,” she said.