Here are Jumblatt's rules: On Frangieh and others alike

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2023-05-13 | 03:48
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Here are Jumblatt's rules: On Frangieh and others alike
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7min
Here are Jumblatt's rules: On Frangieh and others alike

No matter the justifications presented by the leader of the Marada Movement, Sleiman Frangieh, to explain the circumstances of his visit to Saudi Ambassador Walid Bukhari, it will be difficult for him to convince the Christian public of the importance of those justifications, especially since the Saudi ambassador has shown and will continue to show his readiness to meet a wide range of official, except in the case of the "prominent" candidate for the presidency. The latter decided to visit instead of being visited. Indeed, his step will be hard to analyze.

This article was originally published in and translated from Lebanese newspaper Nidaa al-Watan.
However, it is assumed that Zgharta is working on penetrating the depths of the Christian arena, addressing its audience, and breaking the barrier formed by rejecting its prominent parties, namely the Free Patriotic Movement, Lebanese Forces, and Kataeb. So, for every step he takes, there is an impact.

As for the practical facts, the presidential scene is still under the influence of Saudi engagement in the Lebanese file after a period of neglect, characterized in the last stage by the term "positive neutrality."

This means the Kingdom does not pressure its allies to support any candidate in exchange for lifting the veto on all candidates, including Frangieh.

However, alongside these two rules, there is a parallel third rule, albeit unannounced, which is Saudi Arabia's "non-involvement" in any political or financial support for the new era, at least in the predictable future, based on the principle of "you do as you wish, and we do as we please."

In this context, sources believe that the announcement by the National Moderation Bloc of its rejection to boycott any electoral session that protects the Taif Accord signifies, without explicitly stating it, its support for the arrival of the leader of the Marada Movement, which is not surprising and does not reflect any development in the Saudi stance, insofar as it reflects the interests of this group regionally and electorally in the arrival of Frangieh to Baabda Palace.

Where does Walid Jumblatt stand?

All eyes are now on Walid Jumblatt's stance as the leader of the Progressive Socialist Party prepares to clarify his bloc's position on the upcoming presidential election next Monday.

However, two factors play a significant role in shaping his position: first, his close relationship with the Speaker of Parliament, Nabih Berri, which allows the latter to influence the votes of the Democratic Gathering bloc, or most of them as if they were in his pocket. Second, the recent shift in the Saudi position, moving from outright rejection of Fragieh to a non-opposition to his presidency.

But insiders familiar with Jumblatt's position assert that numerous considerations are preventing him from joining the ranks of the supporters of the leader of Frangieh. 

He has made this explicit and apparent to those he has met recently, emphasizing that "we must have a president from outside the traditional alignments."

Therefore, Walid Jumblatt's concerns can be summarized as follows:

1. Jumblatt is known as one of the wisest politicians in navigating regional developments. But he may have reasons for favoring a president outside the traditional alignments to maintain a balanced approach in the country.

2. Jumblatt is sincere when he says that the future lies with his son, Taymour Jumblatt, and he does not engage in political moves. Taymour has a unique approach to Lebanon's composition, public affairs, and state-building, somewhat dissimilar to his father's vision, if not outright opposition.

Therefore, Taymour is not inclined to endorse a settlement that revives the same political structure that has held the country's reins since the 1990s, although he is an inheritor of its legacy.

However, this does not mean that the father and son are at odds regarding the presidential issue, especially considering Walid Jumblatt's previous statement that Michel Moawad is a challenging candidate for his team. At the same time, Frangieh is a challenging candidate for the opposing team, and his opinion remains unchanged.

3. Leader of the Progressive Socialist Party will not take a step that puts him on the opposite side of the Christian forces. As long as these forces reject the presidency of the leader of the Marada Movement, Jumblatt will not surpass them.

In his media appearances, he will reiterate the constants that govern his position on the presidency, regardless of the candidate's name: First, not being rejected by Christians; second, being accepted by most Lebanese forces.

Additionally, he must have a clear reform plan and avoid any internal or external confrontations with Arab countries that may jeopardize Lebanon.

In this context, the name becomes a mere detail, whether Sleiman Frangieh or someone else, making him equal to other candidates. What matters is that these specifications are present alongside his/ her nomination.

Influence of the Arab Summit

Frangieh's supporters rely on the final statement issued by the Arab Summit as a decisive factor in the Lebanese political landscape, mainly if it includes an explicit call for the Lebanese to hold their presidential elections swiftly.
Such a call could potentially push specific political forces toward parliament. This would mix things up and lead Sleiman Frangieh to become the president if his opponents cannot agree on a competing candidate.

On the other hand, others downplay the importance of this scenario, arguing that the statement that will be issued would be purely symbolic without any implementation mechanisms, especially if it is not accompanied, for example, by a decision to form a monitoring or supervisory committee. This means that any statement issued by the Summit would have no real impact.

However, Gebran Bassil is still the one who actively engages in playing the presidential game.

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