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PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

Bassil: I will not accept a bad president, and if that's the case, I'm ready to run

Gebran Bassil, leader of the Free Patriotic Movement. (Credit: AFP archive)

PARIS — Senior Lebanese politician Gebran Bassil said Thursday that he will not accept Lebanon having "a bad president," in which case he'd be ready to run for the position. 

"I am the head of the biggest parliamentarian bloc and it is my total right to be the candidate and promote myself. But I see that the existence of Lebanon is much more important than this and it's now the existence of Lebanon that is at stake," Bassil, a Maronite Christian and one Lebanon's most influential politicians, told Reuters in an interview.

"I took the decision not to present myself [as a candidate] in order to avoid the vacancy and facilitate the process of ensuring a good profile with a high possibility of success. I did not do this to have the vacancy and a bad person to fill the void," he said.

Bassil is head of the FPM, founded by the outgoing president Michel Aoun, his father-in-law. He was sanctioned by the United States in 2020 for alleged corruption and material support to Hezbollah. He denies the accusations.

Lebanon has had neither a head of state nor a fully empowered cabinet since Aoun's term as president ended on Oct. 31 — an unprecedented vacuum even by the standards of a country that has enjoyed little stability since independence.

The vacuum marks a new phase in the crisis that has hit Lebanon since its financial system collapsed in 2019, impoverishing a large swath of people, paralyzing banks and fueling the biggest wave of emigration since the 1975-1990 Civil War.

The presidential post is reserved for Christians, but part of the standoff reflects rivalries among the community as well as crucial political and religious balances in the country.

With politicians showing no compromise in a tussle over state power, some political sources and analysts say a compromise on the presidency may demand the type of foreign mediation that has saved Lebanon from such standoffs previously.

Bassil, who won plaudits for playing a behind-the-scenes role in US-brokered talks to delineate Lebanon's maritime boundary with Israel by liaising with Hezbollah, said he hoped a breakthrough on the presidency could be achieved by the end of the year, but that even that was "dangerous" in terms of delays.

"Frankly, if what we are trying to do does not succeed, I don't see a chance in the near future and the vacancy may last for a long time," he said. "That's why the country can't take this and live with it so we need to succeed in finding a solution."


PARIS — Senior Lebanese politician
Gebran Bassil said Thursday that he will not accept Lebanon having "a bad president," in which case he'd be ready to run for the position. "I am the head of the biggest parliamentarian bloc and it is my total right to be the candidate and promote myself. But I see that the existence of Lebanon is much more important than this and it's now...