“If the majority of the opposition agrees on my name for the presidency, I am ready,” Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea said Monday evening, as Lebanese MPs are due to elect a successor to President Michel Aoun before his term ends Oct. 31.
A day after Geagea’s comments, on Tuesday, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri announced the legislature would gather Thursday morning to elect the president.
In a televised interview with local channel LBCI, Geagea said that, if there is consensus on his name among MPs, he is also ready to “prepare [his] electoral program,” adding that this program would be similar to the one presented during the May 2022 legislative elections in which the LF and their allies won 19 seats.
As the parliamentary session nears to elect the next president, Geagea is trying to assemble MPs who are opposed to Aoun and the party he founded, the Free Patriotic Movement — whose political allies are mainly Amal and Hezbollah. Geagea suggested in September he would support a “confrontational president” against the FPM’s camp.
“It is obvious that we will not discuss [presidential candidates] with the FPM, Hezbollah or Amal … because they are the ones who brought us to where we are,” the LF leader again chastised Monday night, alluding to Lebanon’s deep financial crisis.
“But there are 67 opposition MPs, that’s why we have to agree on a president who meets the required criteria,” Geagea continued, saying that he has “started to discuss several names of presidential candidates with the opposition MPs.” He did not add details on who those potential candidates might be.
Joseph Aoun and Sleiman Frangieh
Asked by LBCI about the potential candidacy of army commander-in-chef General Joseph Aoun, Geagea said he is “not against” it, but would “prefer a political president.” According to him, “Lebanon does not need a technocrat president but a political president with a clear position.”
What about Sleiman Frangieh, another political figure whose name has circulated in recent weeks? “Despite the personal relationship and contacts we have, he remains a member of the other camp and does not deny it,” said Geagea, “If he reaches the presidency, which blocs will he rely on if not those of the Shiite duo?” he asked, although Frangieh often denies representing Hezbollah and its allies.
In a televised interview last week, Frangieh, who leads the Marada Movement, said that he is “not Hezbollah’s candidate,” in an apparent attempt to present himself as a consensus figure.
Geagea on Monday spoke of his relationship with Walid Jumblatt's Progressive Socialist Party (PSP), which he said is more open consensus with Hezbollah than it is with the LF. However, “the relationship is open with the PSP, there is no rupture between us,” said Geagea. “There are some names of presidential candidates that we share with them and with other groups,” he continued.
Putting Saudi Arabia at ease
Geagea also spoke about Lebanon’s relations with its Arab neighbors, in connection with the presidential election.
“Saudi Arabia will not cooperate with Lebanon if the new president makes it uncomfortable and if they come from a well-known political side,” he said, in a dig at figures supportive of Hezbollah, which has a close relationship with Tehran.
Finally, Geagea also mentioned the recent series of bank holdups by depositors demanding their own savings, which made headlines earlier this month. “I understand the anger of the depositors, but we cannot continue like this, because it jeopardizes the rights of other depositors,” he said, placing the responsibility for the current situation “on the state in the first place, [then] Banque du Liban and the banks.”
On Monday morning, some banks reopened after a weeklong closure amid heightened tensions and security measures.