BEIRUT — Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah spoke to a crowd via live broadcast Friday evening to commemorate the party’s annual Martyrs’ Day, and stressed that his party wants a Lebanese president "that will not backstab 'the Resistance,' nor plot against it nor sell it out."
Lebanon is facing a total power vacuum at the executive level; the country is without a president and its cabinet has been in caretaker status since the May parliamentary elections.
'The future of the country'
"All blocs want to elect a president, and the vacuum in the presidency affects everyone. The presidential election is a matter that does not only concern the Maronites and the Christians. It concerns all the Lebanese," Nasrallah said. "The higher national interest requires the election of a president as soon as possible ... Filling the vacuum is not like filling the blank."
"We don't want to fill it with just any president, we are talking about the future of the country for the next six years," Nasrallah insisted.
Five parliamentary sessions devoted to the election of a new president have failed. No candidate achieved the two-thirds majority needed in the first round of voting to be elected president. The legislature has repeatedly lost quorum before the initiation of the second round of voting.
The latest session, which took place Thursday, resulted in yet another blank ballot majority. This new failure came after several parliamentarians, including those from the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) and Hezbollah, withdrew from the session after casting blank ballots in the first round of voting, causing a loss of quorum.
The only apparent frontrunner candidate in the presidential election is Zgharta MP Michel Moawad, who has received 44 votes, while the remainder of the 108 MPs participating cast protest and blank ballots.
Nasrallah also commended former President Michel Aoun's mandate saying, "During the six years of President Michel Aoun's term of office, the back of the Resistance ... was assured. In Baabda there was a courageous man who does not buy himself, who does not betray and who does not stab in the back."
FPM leader, Gebran Bassil, and Marada Movement leader Sleiman Frangieh — Christian rivals, yet both Hezbollah allies — have repeatedly signaled presidential ambitions. So far, Hezbollah has not backed either of them for president. Nasrallah's political camp has maintained its blank vote strategy in Parliament.
No comment on Taif
"The Lebanese must have a dialogue with each other, and Speaker Berri can play a great role in this. But when we are asked to elect a president who first wants to discuss Hezbollah's weapons, the approach is wrong. We need a sound approach," Nasrallah continued.
He added that his party wants "a president that would not be sold or bought," blaming foreign countries for being "always ready to buy a president for Lebanon."
However, he chose not to comment on Saudi Arabia's recent push in Beirut to preserve the Taif Agreement, which ended a 15-year civil war in Lebanon, under the auspices of Saudi Arabia. Hezbollah is known to translate this request as "interference in Lebanese affairs."
Meanwhile, the international community has repeatedly called on Lebanon to end the total vacuum at the executive level, pleading for the election of a new president without delay.
Maritime border agreement 'is here to stay'
In his speech, Nasrallah also assured the results of the recent Israeli election, which witnessed the return of Benjamin Netanyahu to power, “won’t affect the maritime border deal nor the contracts with oil and gas companies.” He underlined the role of the United States, which Nasrallah said acts as "the deal's guarantor."
Netanyahu is known to be hostile toward the deal and has previously threatened to "neutralize" the agreement.
"Whether the Israeli cabinet is from the extremist right-wing or leftist or central … it won’t matter, it doesn’t change anything for us," the party's secretary-general added.
Nasrallah dubbed the maritime border agreement with Israel a "great historic victory" for Lebanon in his Oct. 29 speech but acknowledged that Beirut did not receive all its demands. He also announced his party ended its "exceptional measures" against Israel.
For several months, Hezbollah had increased the mobilization of its armed forces near the border with Israel. Tensions were heightened after the arrival of a gas platform in the Karish gas field in early June, after which both Hezbollah and Israel threatened war.