BEIRUT — The head of the Progressive Socialist Party, Walid Joumblatt, said Sunday evening that he will not vote for Free Patriotic Movement leader Gebran Bassil and Marada Party leader Sleiman Frangieh, who are the two most likely candidates in the upcoming presidential elections, scheduled for November.
Here is what we know :
• "I will not vote for either Gebran Bassil or Sleiman Frangieh," said Joumblatt during a discussion with Lebanese expatriates, according to al-Anbaa newspaper. Though FPM and Marada are political rivals, they are both allies of Hezbollah, which currently holds, along with its allies, the majority in Parliament.
• "A sovereigntist force must remain in Parliament, to refuse any candidate close to the Syrian-Iranian camp for the presidency," Joumblatt continued.
• Jumblat also criticized what he called the intention of Bassil "to compromise the vote of the Lebanese abroad using the Foreign Affairs Ministry.” Foreign Affairs Minister Abdallah Bou Habib is affiliated with FPM. Diplomats started an open strike more than a week ago, the timing of which many found suspicious, as it occurred so close to the May 15 parliamentary elections. The diplomats, however, suspended their strike last Wednesday.
• Criticizing Hezbollah, Joumblatt said that he did not abandon his proposal to disarm Hezbollah. "I'm not talking about removing their weapons by force, because that is impossible and would lead us to a civil war," he said. The PSP leader also expressed his satisfaction with the possible consequences of the return of the Gulf ambassadors to Lebanon after months of political isolation. He described the return as "a return to balance, so as not to remain under Syrian-Iranian control.”
• Joumblatt also said, regarding the unprecedented economic crisis that Lebanon is facing, that "the most important thing lies in the seriousness of the government's work concerning its adoption of a program with the International Monetary Fund, because the preliminary agreement is not enough if it does not really translate into an agreement with Parliament.” The government announced nearly two weeks ago a preliminary agreement with the IMF which would allocate $3 billion to help Lebanon cope with its economic crisis. However, an IMF deal would demand structural reforms that the Lebanese political class has not yet started pursuing.