BEIRUT — Kataeb party leader Samy Gemayel on Tuesday urged Hezbollah to "withdraw its candidate," Marada Movement leader Sleiman Frangieh, from the Lebanese presidential race. In addition to Hezbollah, Frangieh is supported by the Amal Movement led by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri. The race for the Lebanese presidency has been underway since the first electoral session in September 2022, but has so far met with no success.
"If Hezbollah is committed to the country, let it withdraw its candidate and propose another one. We can either choose between the two or find a third option," Gemayel said during a press conference at his party's headquarters in Beirut. He also accused Hezbollah of "stealing the presidential election" and obstructing the path to electing a president.
In an apparent reference to Hezbollah, Gemayel said, "It's not just a problem among the Lebanese, who can't reach an agreement. The problem is that one political camp, just one, wants to impose its candidate! That's it!"
Gemayel spoke following successive meetings with the Qatari ambassador to Lebanon, Saoud ben Abdel Rahman al-Thani, and the Egyptian ambassador to Lebanon, Yasser Alaoui.
Rejection of 'sterile dialogue'
These two regional powers, along with France, the United States and Saudi Arabia, form the Group of Five, which regularly meets to discuss the political deadlock in Lebanon. Lebanon has been without a president since Michel Aoun's term in office ended on Oct. 31 last year. Just under two weeks ago, the quintet met in New York and discussed the Lebanese situation. There were rumors of disagreements among the powers, particularly between Riyadh and Paris.
However, in a recent interview with L'Orient Today, French President Emmanuel Macron's special envoy for Lebanon, Jean-Yves Le Drian, assured that there is "no divergence" within the group.
Continuing his remarks on Tuesday, Gemayel said, "The start of a dialogue is to meet face-to-face, not engage in sterile dialogue." At the end of August, Berri launched an initiative to convene an open-ended electoral session with successive rounds of voting until a new president is elected, provided it be preceded by a maximum one-week-long dialogue session. His initiative, however, met with opposition from Christian parties, even though some, such as the Free Patriotic Movement headed by Gebran Bassil, initially expressed support for it.
The 12 electoral sessions held since late September 2022 have not resulted in the election of a new head of state due to a lack of consensus among the various local political forces. The Hezbollah camp and its allies unwaveringly support Frangieh, while the opposition has endorsed International Monetary Fund high-ranking official Jihad Azour.