Challenges and uncertainty surround Lebanon's presidential elections with Azour's nomination

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2023-06-05 | 01:10
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Challenges and uncertainty surround Lebanon's presidential elections with Azour's nomination
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6min
Challenges and uncertainty surround Lebanon's presidential elections with Azour's nomination

On Sunday, the opposition solidified its nomination of former minister Jihad Azour for the republic's presidency. Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri is now tasked with opening the doors of Parliament for the twelfth session to complete the presidential process, amid media reports from the second presidency sources that he has requested MPs not to travel abroad soon.

Meanwhile, Maronite Patriarch Mar Bechara Boutros al-Rahi has put into effect a plan for communication with all Lebanese components, as previously announced. He began by sending an envoy to Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah last Saturday, followed by a similar visit to Berri within two days.
 
However, the openness of Bkerke to the Amal-Hezbollah duo did not change the tense behavior of the latter, which escalated on Sunday to the point of threatening to prevent the opposition candidate Azour from being elected, as stated by MP Hassan Fadlallah, member of the Loyalty to the Resistance Bloc, who said, "the challenging and confrontational candidate will not reach Baabda, whoever he is!"

Thus, through this escalation at the level of the resistance group, it appears that their presidential candidate, Sleiman Frangieh, is practically out of the picture, as reported by Nidaa Al-Watan, a result of the Patriarch al-Rahi's recent visit to the Vatican and Paris.

Despite all the threats and intimidation from the resistance, the opposition achieved a remarkable step by "convergence" on Azour's nomination, with support from a "broad Christian and national quasi-consensus," as stated in the press conference held by the opposition at the residence of MP Michel Moawad, who announced his withdrew in favor of Azour.

A statement followed by MP Mark Daou on behalf of 32 deputies from the Strong Republic bloc affiliated with the Lebanese Forces, Kataeb Party, Renewal movement, and several Change MPs, confirming that Azour "has the ability to gather 65 votes in the next presidential election session."

The statement called for the immediate election of a president in consecutive sessions and stressed that "the time now is not for political deals and evading responsibilities, as the bazaar is over, and it is time to save the country, the state, and the institutions."

In a similar stance of "convergence," Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) leader MP Gebran Bassil announced his support for Azour on Saturday. He clarified, during a dinner with "Jbeil Movement" in the presence of former President Michel Aoun, that "convergence on more than one name provides more flexibility and constitutes a positive and important development, and no one can accuse any party of obstruction."

Moreover, "Nidaa Al-Watan" has learned that there are 11 MPs from the "Movement" who will vote for Azour, while six others will cast blank votes in accordance with their demand to nominate one of the "Movement" MPs for the presidency. In addition, the three MPs of the "Tashnag" party will give their votes to Frangieh, and the same will be done by MP Mohammed Yahya, as promised earlier.

As for Bkerke, according to a statement issued on Sunday by the patriarchal institution, Patriarch al-Rahi sent Bishop Paul Abdel Sater, the head of the Beirut archdiocese, to meet with Hezbollah Secretary-General. This comes "within the framework of consultations and communications initiated by the Patriarch with all Lebanese parties to facilitate the completion of the presidential process and end the fatal vacuum in the presidency," as stated in the statement.

However, Al-Manar TV channel affiliated with Hezbollah reported that Nasrallah received al-Rahi's envoy and discussed "his commitment to nominating Frangieh."

The sources following the movement in Bkerke indicated that the meeting between Abdel Sater and Nasrallah "was characterized by clarity, and each party expressed their views," stating, "the envoy of the patriarch presented to the Secretary-General the details of the Maronite patriarch's movement, its objectives, and its insistence on reaching an agreement on a president or going to elections. Everything surrounding the presidential stalemate and the new situation after the agreement between the Christian forces, the opposition, and FPM were discussed. Bkerke's desire is to respect the Christian will, which does not mean challenging anyone."

The same sources mentioned that they agreed to maintain communication channels. Despite the positive appearance, Bkerke has not received any decision from Hezbollah regarding concession, respect for the Christian will, or commitment to abide by the democratic process through elections.

Bishop Abdel Sater is expected to visit President Berri within 48 hours. The latter confirms in his private discussions that he was forced to nominate Frangieh "to remove the issue of presidential elections from a state of uncertainty" due to what he described as "the rejection of the Christian forces to engage in prior dialogue to agree on a candidate who enjoys the support of the majority of parliamentary blocs!"

Nevertheless, he affirms that he will call for an election session "immediately after announcing the nomination of another candidate other than Sleiman."

Sources in the Amal-Hezbollah duo also confirm that resistance MPs will vote with blank ballots to avoid showing the actual size of Frangieh's supporters, which may not exceed fifty votes. Voting with blank ballots will also allow them to retain Frangieh's ballot.

Moreover, it will give the duo time while waiting for regional and international settlements or understandings, especially Iranian-American ones, through the Omani mediator, which will specifically provide Hezbollah with a suitable way out of the crisis of Frangieh's nomination amidst absolute Christian rejection and Sunni-Druze reluctance to support him.

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