Sleiman Frangieh, head of the Marada Movement and Maronite leader in North Lebanon, gave a speech on Sunday evening in which he raised the possibility of "exhaustive" dialogue with the other parties on the names of presidential candidates.
In his speech, delivered after a mass in Ehden, North Lebanon, in memory of the victims of the June 13, 1978 massacre, Frangieh also attacked his detractors— notably the Free Patriotic Movement, which he accused of supporting "the ruling system" for supporting the candidacy of Jihad Azour.
Azour, a former finance minister and IMF regional director, officially announced his candidacy for the presidency on Monday.
Frangieh's candidacy is supported by Hezbollah and the Amal Movement. During the upcoming presidential electoral session on Wednesday, Frangieh is expected to win the votes of these two groups and their allies, while a large number of MPs opposed to his candidacy are expected to vote for Azour.
Since last weekend, Azour has been the subject of an agreement between several opposition parties, including the Lebanese Forces, Kataeb, the Free Patriotic Movement, the Progressive Socialist Party and several independent MPs.
Below are the main points from Frangieh's speech:
- This year, June 13 has a special connotation, as the date is linked to political circumstances and the presidential election.
- We will not allow June 13 to be attacked on June 14 [during the parliamentary session]. On June 13, when [the militiamen] came, we were asleep. But today, we are wide awake and what happened on June 13 will not happen on June 14.
During the Ehden massacre, the Phalangist squad that attacked the Frangieh mansion killed Frangieh's father, mother and daughter as well as around 40 other people.
- No one can outbid our Christian, national and Arab identity.
- All MPs have the right to support the presidential candidate they wish from among those proposed.
- It's time to reassure Christians that our partner in the nation [Hezbollah] has no intention of suppressing them.
- I'm not ashamed to say I belong to a political project. If I become president, I'll be the president of all Lebanese and I'll be open to all.
- Addressing the FPM: You want a candidate outside the traditional political system, but your candidate comes from the system and was the Finance Minister of the "impossible discharge."
The "impossible discharge" is the title of a book published in 2013 by MP Ibrahim Kanaan, a member of the Free Patriotic Movement founded by ex-president Michel Aoun, in which he accuses Fouad Siniora of manipulating accounts and embezzling public funds to the tune of eleven billion dollars. Between 2005 and 2008, Jihad Azour was Finance Minister in Siniora's cabinet.
- Addressing the Forces of Change MPs who agreed on Jihad Azour's candidacy: How do you justify yourselves to young people after agreeing with those against whom you led a revolution?
Some Forces of Change MPs, notably Mark Daou and Waddah Sadek announced their support for Azour in the same press conference in which the Lebanese Forces, the Kataeb and other independent MPs, including former candidate Michel Moawad, endorsed the former minister's candidacy. Other MPs announced they will back the candidacy of former Interior Minister Ziad Baroud.
- Samir Geagea is against the Moumanaa [pro-Iran axis] candidate, but I would like to remind him that the Moumanaa supported Michel Aoun [for the presidency] in 2016 and that the quorum was torpedoed during parliamentary sessions more than 20 times until [Geagea's] Lebanese Forces supported Hezbollah's candidate.
- Their problem is not with Hezbollah, but with any candidate who is reassuring and open-minded.
- I don't want to impose myself on anyone, and I have no problem if a national, unifying candidate is agreed upon.
- Today we are calling for a comprehensive dialogue or a bipartisan dialogue that leads to a dialogue with all parties.
- Let's put all the names on one dialogue table, and without preconditions on the part of the different parties.
- My relations with the Maronite Patriarch Bechara al-Rai are excellent.
- France knows Lebanon and is trying to find a solution. The French initiative is a pragmatic one.
Paris considered the election of Sleiman Frangieh as part of a barter with the opposition for the post of Prime Minister to be the only viable option for breaking the deadlock in the presidential election. A change seems to be underway, however, and French President Emmanuel Macron recently appointed his former Foreign Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, as "special envoy for Lebanon."
- In reference to Michel Aoun's mandate: In my presidential dictionary, the expression 'they didn't let us do it' doesn't exist.
During his mandate (2016-2022) Aoun regularly blamed other parties blockage for his inability to launch and implement long-awaited reforms.
- I am committed to reform, to respecting the Taif Agreement and to implementing administrative decentralization.
- If I become president, I will be the president of all of Lebanon, of those who are with me as well as against me.