Lebanon's presidential equation: Frangieh, Aoun, and the quest for resolution

Press Highlights
2024-02-24 | 02:41
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Lebanon's presidential equation: Frangieh, Aoun, and the quest for resolution
Lebanon's presidential equation: Frangieh, Aoun, and the quest for resolution

Electing a president for the republic is currently not considered by any Lebanese faction as a constitutional requirement but rather as a matter at the heart of a conflict of crucial choices, not specifications. 

This article is originally published in, translated from Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar.
That drives serious competing candidates, declared and presumed, to accumulate points, nothing more.

Three close meetings, spaced approximately a month apart, are enough to signal the intention of the Marada Movement leader, Sleiman Frangieh, to proceed with his candidacy until further notice. 

The Army Commander General Joseph Aoun hosted the first in Yarzeh on December 20. The second was hosted by the former president of the Progressive Socialist Party, Walid Joumblatt, in Clemenceau on January 15. Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri hosted the third at the Grand Serail on February 13. 

Frangieh, the candidate of the Shiite duo, visited them simultaneously while he was on the opposite bank from all three. Most of what was circulated about the three meetings is that they did not delve into presidential elections and settled for social aspects and personal relations. 

However, their occurrence makes them an event, not just their content. They may not directly impact the presidential race as long as they do not lead to explicit positions that break the deadlock that has surrounded it since the session of June 14. 

Nevertheless, they introduce new considerations for the next phase: firstly, the satisfaction expressed by Frangieh, who is still present among those around him, and his continued candidacy until the election session. 

He remains the only declared candidate, with 51 votes since the session of June 14. It increases without decreasing. He enjoys the support of the Shiite duo, which closes the doors to any other option. However, he realizes the difficulty of his election amid a widespread Christian boycott, which is difficult to ignore or bypass. 

As a team, those around him speak of meetings held away from the limelight to discuss a new political and media action plan regarding his candidacy, aiming for a different approach to the existing rift between him and the Christian blocs and parties, starting with his candidacy. 

Frangieh is blamed within his circles for merely watching others engage in the battle to reach the presidency. He is disconnected from influential references and internal influencers. This criticism is the subject of searching for a different performance regarding electoral entitlement.

Secondly, it is no secret that the Army Commander is the main competitor to Frangieh without being in the midst of an electoral confrontation similar to the session of June 14 between Frangieh and former minister Jihad Azour. 

He is more of a presumptive candidate for the presidency than a declared one. He has not disclosed his candidacy and cannot do so under strict constitutional constraints as long as he is in office, nor has he been nominated by any of the blocs opposing Frangieh. 

He lacks votes, and his voting exercise has not been tested in the twelve previous parliamentary sessions. It is also illogical to expect his election as president under normal circumstances in a session where MPs are called to vote for him. 

Only a settlement arising from an exceptional situation, characterized mainly by tension, where internal and external factors intertwine, gives him a chance of success. 

Therefore, the Army Commander retains the peculiarity of being a presumptive candidate until the time of settlement, despite widespread rumors that most of the five countries either converge on his election or are enthusiastic about it while recognizing at the same time that the obstacle to his accession is the Shiite duo.

In this way, the dilemma of the two main candidates, Frangieh and Aoun, resembles each other: while the former lacks Christian support for his election, the latter clashes with the unavailability of Shiite backing. 

Both need the presence of at least 86 MPs to convene an election session without either of them possessing to date the two majorities qualified to win: two-thirds in the first round and the absolute majority in the subsequent rounds.

The two men reconciled more than two months ago, but they await one of two possible settlement models: an internal one accepted by the external forces leading Frangieh to Baabda Palace or an external one accepted by the internal forces, notably the Shiite duo, leading to the election of the Army Commander. 

This means that each of them has a different situation, and they do not compete face-to-face. As long as Frangieh is a declared candidate facing difficulties in his election, Aoun has no choice but to remain a presumptive candidate.

Thirdly, Frangieh's dinner interpretation with Joumblatt and Hariri suggests he is close to securing 65 or slightly more votes. Both are concerned with withholding their sectarian votes or directing them. 

However, the Druze and Sunni leaders do not share the same position: the best Joumblatt offered to Frangieh - albeit with a delayed personal benefit less than a month later, appointing a Chief of Staff - is a shift from rejecting his candidacy to not objecting to voting for him. 

In the June 14 session, the Democratic Gathering bloc, led by Azour, voted after its leader, MP Teymour Joumblatt, repeatedly confirmed its departure to any option contrary to the leader from Zgharta. 

The reconciliation between Frangieh and the Joumblatt patriarchs was accompanied by a complementary reconciliation between their sons after two visits, first in Bnachii and then in Clemenceau. 

Joumblatt, the father, cannot request from his son's bloc what he separates between him and the extensive role given to his successor in the party and bloc decisions; he is viewed with reservation by Hariri. 

The leader of the Future Movement does not have what it takes to give. He hasn't had a parliamentary bloc since his retirement. The Sunni vote is divided between the Shiite duo, the Christian opposition, and the chosen Sunnis in the National Moderation Bloc and around it. 

Hariri's affirmation that he continues his political retirement kept his Sunni reference with the Saudi ambassador Walid al-Bukhari. At the same time, he dispelled suspicions hinted at by the dinner at the Grand Serail about the possibility of them reviving the experience of November 2015.

Lebanon News

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Sleiman Frangieh

Joseph Aoun



Marada Movement




Saad Hariri

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