BEIRUT — Marada leader Sleiman Frangieh announced on Thursday evening that he has no plans to withdraw from the presidential race, the post which has been vacant for over a year after the end of Michel Aoun's office term on Oct. 31 last year.
The presidential vacancy has been dragging on while southern Lebanon remains the scene of a daily exchange of bombardments between Hezbollah and Israel following the start of the Hamas-Israeli war on Oct. 7.
"I have no intention of withdrawing [from the presidential race]," the Christian leader, Frangieh, declared during a political debate on the LBCI channel. "I am open to any dialogue."
Frangieh is known to be an ally of Hezbollah and the Syrian regime.
"The subject of the presidency cannot be downplayed at this sensitive time," he pointed out during the televised interview.
"Without consensus, there will be no president," Frangieh said, adding that "there must be dialogue and consensus with the participation of all, at the very least."
Frangieh is the presidential candidate backed by both Hezbollah and the Amal Movement.
According to some observers, the "al-Aqsa flood" operation carried out by Hamas against Israel on Oct. 7 was seen as favorable to the Marada leader's candidacy.
"The management of the state, the question of displaced [Syrian people], the question of the right of return [for Palestinian refugees] and the need to elect a president are issues on which we agreed on with [leader of the Free Patriotic Movement] Gebran Bassil," Frangieh explained.
The discussion between Frangieh and Bassil took place at a meeting on Oct. 25.
"I stressed that we cannot impose conditions on the resistance," Frangieh added, referring to Hezbollah.
In this context, Frangieh asserted that "the resistance does not want war."
"It is acting wisely, but if the enemy imposes war, it will be inevitable," he said.
Since the start of the Hamas-Israel conflict, Frangieh and Bassil have shown unity in the face of the risk of a war spillover in Lebanon.
However, the two Christian leaders, both allies of the Shiite party Hezbollah, do not agree on the issue of the presidential election, as the FPM's leader remains fiercely opposed to Frangieh's candidacy.
Refusal of any appointment during a presidential vacancy
Referring to the army's commander-in-chief, General Joseph Aoun, whose term of office expires on Jan. 10, 2024, the Marada leader pledged his "support for any initiative that would protect the military institution."
However, he insisted that "we refuse any appointment during a presidential vacancy."
"I'm not against extending the term of office of the commander-in-chief of the army. An extension is one option among others because we must allow the military institution to pursue its mission. If Hezbollah has no problem with Joseph Aoun, he is committed to my side, as a candidate for the presidency of the Republic," Frangieh stressed.
General Aoun is unofficially considered in Lebanon and abroad as a serious presidential candidate.
Speaking on another level about the conflict between Hamas and Israel, Frangieh felt that "striking Lebanon is no longer a walk in the park for Israel, and the forces of the resistance have compelled it to review its calculations."