US-backed Lebanese Forces alone in presidential vote boycott: Report
The Lebanese presidency is being disputed between Suleiman Franjieh, who has the backing of Hezbollah, and army commander Joseph Aoun who is the preferred choice of Saudi Arabia and the US
By News Desk - March 04 2023

(Photo credit: AP Photo/Hussein Malla, File)

Most Lebanese opposition parties will not back a plan by the Saudi and US-funded Lebanese Forces (LF) party to boycott an upcoming presidential vote in parliament should Hezbollah secure the 65 votes needed to elect the group’s preferred candidate, Marada Movement chief Suleiman Franjieh, according to Asharq al-Awsat.

A split within the Maronite Christian political forces in Lebanon has delayed the election of a president, who, according to the Lebanese constitution, must come from the Maronite community, while the prime minister must be a Sunni Muslims and the speaker of parliament a Shia Muslim.

The presidency has been vacant since last year when former President Michel Aoun’s term ended on 31 October.

If enough parliament members (MP) boycott the vote, a quorum would not be reached, and the election could not proceed.

However, MP Bilal Abdallah of the Progressive Socialist Party-led Democratic Gathering bloc told Asharq al-Awsat that they had not boycotted any session in the past and do not intend to do so in the future.

“No matter the reasons, we do not impede institutions, the presidency, the government, or parliament. We reject this approach toward any juncture, especially since the country has fully disintegrated,” Abdallah told Asharq al-Awsat.

The six MPs of the National Moderation bloc have also refused to block quorum, while the 12 MPs of the Change bloc have yet to voice a unified stance.

MP Alain Aoun of the Free Patriotic Movement-led Strong Lebanon bloc also suggested his bloc had no plans to join a boycott. “Since the beginning of the voting sessions, our stance has been clear regarding participation in the sessions and refraining from impeding the presidential juncture,” Aoun said.

LF head Samir Geagea stated that he began pushing for a boycott because: “If Hezbollah’s candidate gets elected, it would further isolate Lebanon from the Arab world and the west.”

The boycott effort comes as Hezbollah and its allies are trying to secure enough votes for Franjieh’s election.

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri of the Amal Movement told Al-Akhbar they are trying to convince Free Patriotic Movement leader Jebran Bassil to vote for Franjieh. Berri indicated the only other serious candidate, Army chief Joseph Aoun, could only be elected through a constitutional amendment.

General Aoun has the support of Qatar, Saudi Arabia, France, and the US.

“Our candidate is known, but their candidate is a test-tube experiment,” Berri told Al-Akhbar.

Berri explained further that, in his view, “The main problem in the presidential elections is inter-Maronite,” accusing the Maronites of disagreeing on a president.

Hezbollah choice and Marada leader Franjieh comes from a noted Lebanese family. His grandfather was president when Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war broke out, while in 1978, his father, politician Tony Franjieh, and mother and sister were murdered by rival Christian militia fighters.

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