BEIRUT — The head of the Free Patriotic Movement, Gebran Bassil, once again lashed out at his main political rival Samir Geagea, head of the Lebanese Forces, on Saturday, accusing him of having no program for the upcoming presidential election, except for posing as a "challenge" to Bassil, son-in-law of the incumbent president, Michel Aoun, and his political party.
Bassil's remarks played on the expression used earlier this week by Geagea, who rejected a future consensual president and called for a "president of challenge" to the ruling majority.
Both Geagea and Bassil are widely anticipated to be candidates for the presidency despite neither having officially announced they will run for the office. The time frame for electing a new president runs from Aug. 31 to Oct. 31, when the term of Aoun, founder of the FPM, expires.
"Your only project is to bring down Aoun, Gebran and the FPM," Bassil said in a comment directed at Geagea during a speech at the opening of a camp for the FPM's youth in Smar Jbeil in Bassil's constituency of Batroun.
Bassil also criticized the LF for not having a "project on electricity" in a country where the state provides only a few hours of power per day — a bold criticism given that ministers from the FPM or close to the party have headed the Energy Ministry since 2008.
"Their only project is to defeat the FPM's project for power supply and dams," Bassil added.
"They also have no project or program for the future president. Their president wants only a president of "challenge" to Gebran and the FPM," he said. "They want a head of state who does the opposite of what we do and who abandons partnership, representation, the National Pact and reforms," he continued.
"The crisis we are experiencing in Lebanon is bigger than a crisis of power and system. It is a moral crisis," Bassil went on. This crisis "has made the criminal strong and has made thieves and collaborators smart, and the collapse of morality is the cause of the collapse of the state, itself the cause of the economic and financial collapse," he added.
On Friday evening, Geagea also spoke about the upcoming presidential election, saying that it was now "possible that the next president will not be from 8 March," the political camp to which Bassil belongs. "We consider that this represents 50 percent of the mission, and the other half of this mission is that whoever will be elected president must be able to face up to his convictions and take a minimum of firm positions," he said, contending that without this "nothing will change."