BEIRUT — Lebanese Forces (LF) leader Samir Geagea said in a televised interview Wednesday night that the "verbal escalation" of some Hezbollah officials in recent days — since several parties announced their support for IMF official Jihad Azour for president — was "unjustified."
Since the LF, the Kataeb party, FPM and several independent MPs endorsed Azour last weekend, several MPs and Hezbollah officials have spoken against the move. Hezbollah and its ally, the Amal Movement, support Marada Movement leader Sleiman Frangieh in the race.
In particular, MP Hassan Fadlallah described the candidacy of former minister and current IMF official Azour as "a challenge" and said that the candidate "will never make it to Baabda."
A picture of Azour published last week in the pro-Hezbollah newspaper Al-Akhbar, next to assassinated former minister Mohammad Chatah, was also seen as a threat by some opponents of the party.
In an interview Wenesday night on the London-based Arabic-language TV channel Hala London, Geagea asserted that the Amal-Hezbollah tandem "should rejoice now that an agreement has been reached around another serious candidate, which inevitably leads to an election."
"The verbal escalation we've heard in recent days is unjustified," he added, claiming his political opponents "don't want the situation to get out of their control."
"The other side doesn't believe in the Constitution, elections, law and order and these kinds of principles," he criticized. He hoped that the agreement around Azour's name would lead to "broader negotiations and agreements."
No 'Christian trio'
Geagea also rejected the idea that the agreement around Azour would lead to a "Christian trio" made up of the FL, the FPM and the Kataeb facing the so-called "Shiite tandem" of Hezbollah and Amal.
MPs have been called to a parliamentary election session on June 14, now that two candidates are in the running for the presidency.
This will be the 12th session devoted to the presidential election since September 2022. There has been no president since the end of former head of state Michel Aoun's term on Oct. 31.
The 11 previous sessions were marked by blank votes and losses of quorum after the first round of voting.
Some analysts believe that Frangieh's supporters could use a similar tactic to prevent a second round on June 14.
However, this session will offer Azour the opportunity to position himself as a serious contender for the Baabda palace if gets more votes than Frangieh, who will also be facing the ballot box for the first time.