BEIRUT — Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, one of the unofficial candidates for the presidency, rejected Monday any agreement with the Hezbollah camp and pleaded for a "defiant" president in the face of the "axis of the moumanaa."
Geagea's remarks are part of a political tug of war that is stiffening as the end of President Michel Aoun's term on Oct. 31 approaches.
The deadline for the election of a new head of state begins at the end of this August, and Aoun's term expires on Oct. 31. Several names of potential candidates are already circulating, but none has officially announced their candidacy. The names in circulation include Aoun's son-in-law, the leader of the Free Patriotic Movement Gebran Bassil, who has acknowledged to some degree that he could have difficulties in being elected, especially because of US sanctions against him, but who nevertheless appears to have aspirations to the role.
There is also the leader of the Marada Movement, Sleiman Frangieh, who seeks to present himself as a compromise figure despite his proximity to the March 8 camp, and then there is the commander-in-chief of the army, Joseph Aoun, for whom Geagea has expressed his support on several occasions.
For the moment, Hezbollah, an ally of both Bassil and Frangieh, has not yet come out in favor of either potential candidate. In an interview given at the end of July to the al-Mayadeen television channel, the leader of the party Hassan Nasrallah left the door open to a compromise. "Hezbollah will not have a candidate in the presidential election, but could support one," he said.
Druze leader Walid Joumblatt, who could find himself the kingmaker in the presidential election, meanwhile seems to be in favor of a compromise candidate, which would mean supporting neither Frangieh nor Bassil, much less Geagea.
"The consensual president and the national unity governments are the reasons why we find ourselves in the current situation. There is no point in continuing these policies ...," Geagea said, during a press conference at his headquarters in Maarab, Kesrouan. "Any call for an agreement with the axis of the moumanaa around a president of the republic is rejected, because it will lead us to the policies we opted for in the past ...," the LF head warned.
The moumanaa refers to the regional axis led by Iran, Syria and directed in particular against the West and the United States. On the Lebanese political scene, some people adhere to this axis, notably Hezbollah, the pro-Iranian party against which Geagea is multiplying his attacks.
"The experience of the 2009 election and until today, has led us to the current situation. So why would we want to repeat such an experience? Hezbollah and its allies are like a cave of Ali Baba. Hezbollah surely cannot get rid of its allies and therefore we should not have a dialogue with it," Geagea added.
"We want a defiant president. Not on a personal level. But if we do not elect a president who can challenge the policies of Gebran Bassil and Hezbollah, then how can we achieve the rescue" of the country, asked the head of the LF, whose party, nonetheless, reached a political agreement in 2016 with the FPM that allowed the election of Michel Aoun as president.
"We want a president who is a real man, a sovereignist and a reformer par excellence," Geagea continued. "We do not want a confrontational president, but a head of state capable of leading the rescue operation. Such a president must have certain qualities, and if Hezbollah feels that these qualities are a threat to it, that is its problem."
Commenting on the ongoing dialogue between Joumblatt and Hezbollah, a rapprochement that has been criticized in sovereignist circles including Geagea's, the head of the LF referred to his "friendship" with the leader of the Progressive Socialist Party. But as for the presidential elections, he said, "I don't know what to say."
For the leader of the LF, "those who can bring about a solution are the formations of the opposition ...." He welcomed in this context the recent meeting in Parliament between several members of Parliament from the opposition and the popular protest movement — a meeting that did not, however, include elected LF.
"I note positively the meetings in Parliament between sovereignist MPs, hoping that we will end up with a candidate that does not resemble the previous ones," Geagea said. Any MP or parliamentary group that will frustrate the efforts of the opposition to elect a president is a traitor," the LF leader however warned.
He finally returned to the possibility of blocking the parliamentary sessions for the election of the head of state, a tactic used by Hezbollah and its camp in the past, and that the LF and its allies would now consider to prevent their opponents from obtaining the election of their preferred candidate.
"The most important thing for us is to play a positive role in the presidential elections. Regarding a possible blocking of the parliamentary sessions for the election of the head of state, this blocking could concern only one session, and exceptionally, for technical reasons, if we believe that we need more time to achieve the designation of a single candidate," Geagea said.
In early August, Geagea warned that his party would oppose the election of a head of state from the Hezbollah camp, while reiterating that he considered himself a "natural candidate" for the job, without however going so far as to officially announce his candidacy.
BEIRUT — Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, one of the unofficial candidates for the presidency, rejected Monday any agreement with the Hezbollah camp and pleaded for a "defiant" president in the face of the "axis of the moumanaa." Geagea's remarks are part of a political tug of war that is stiffening as the end of President Michel Aoun's term on Oct. 31 approaches.The deadline for the...