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Lebanon… Division deepens political differences and squanders chances of electing a president

The differences between the Lebanese political forces over the candidates for the presidential elections resulted in a vertical political division, with the parties entrenched behind two options: the head of the “Marada” movement, Suleiman Franjieh, and the former minister, Jihad Azour, which prevents the production of a settlement that ends the presidential vacancy that has been going on for 8 months.

Suleiman Franjieh, the leader of the “Marada Movement”, during his speech after his meeting with the Maronite Patriarch Beshara Boutros Al-Rahi in Bkerke, Lebanon, October 30, 2021 (Reuters)

It became clear that most of the parties were practically aligned around two candidates. The duo of “Hezbollah” and “Amal Movement” and their allies support Franjieh’s candidacy, while the “Lebanese Forces”, “Lebanese Kataeb”, “Free Patriotic Movement” and “Progressive Socialist Party” and independent figures opposed to “Hezbollah” support Azour’s candidacy. , Waiting for others to decide their positions, next Monday, including the “National Moderation” bloc.


However, these nominations are difficult to end the presidential vacancy, and this is what the sources of both parties agree on. Sources close to the “duo” hint that the option to boycott the session “is a legal right for her,” which means that her lack of a quorum of 86 deputies in the second session will refute the possibility of electing a president.

On the other hand, sources from the forces supporting Azour express their concern about the withdrawal of the “duo” deputies and their allies from the session. As it is impossible to secure the legal quorum for the session in their absence, according to what the sources confirm.

Lebanese law requires the election of a president by a two-thirds majority of parliament members in the first session (86 deputies), while two-thirds of parliament must be present in the second session, which allows for the election of a president by a majority of half plus one (65 deputies).

Former Lebanese Finance Minister and Director of the Middle East and Central Asia Department at the International Monetary Fund, during an interview with (Reuters)

numbers game

The number of deputies supporting the election of Franjieh exceeds a minimum of a third of the members of Parliament. The “Development and Liberation” and “Loyalty to the Resistance” blocs, along with their allies, consist of 31 deputies, in addition to a bloc of 5 deputies announced last week, two deputies from the “Marada” and its allies Farid al-Khazen and Michel al-Murr, and 3 independents at a minimum, which means the loss of The session is for a legal quorum if they withdraw from it in the second round, or if they do not appear in the first session.

On the other hand, the number of Azour supporters reaches more than 60 decided votes, according to what the opponents of “Hezbollah” say, and about 56 votes have been decided so far. The Free Patriot (12 deputies, at a minimum, on the background of the division in the current), the “Progressive Socialist” (8 deputies), the independents (7 deputies), and part of the changeists (6 deputies).

In contrast to the settled numbers, others have not yet decided their position, namely the National Moderation bloc, the Tashnaqs, 6 representatives of the changeists, and other independents.

Accordingly, the sources of the two parties doubt that this division will lead to ending the presidential vacancy, and sources of supporters of Azour say that “the agreement of the opposition with the current, reaped almost a Christian consensus with a Christian majority described towards the election of Azour, and it is a serious option to end the presidential vacancy,” pointing at the same time to That “if Hezbollah chooses to boycott the sessions, it and its allies will bear the responsibility of prolonging the presidential vacancy, and continuing to deepen the crises of the Lebanese.”

New alliances map

However, the calculations of numbers do not dispel other facts related to the growing divisions within the parliamentary blocs, and the re-formation of a map of new alliances, which resulted in a significant divergence between the “Free Patriot” and “Hezbollah”, and a presidential discrepancy between President Nabih Berri and his friend, former MP Walid Jumblatt, who took Thursday evening, a decision to support Azour’s candidacy and the Democratic Gathering Bloc’s vote for him, in addition to an electoral intersection between the “Free Patriotic Movement” on the one hand, and the “Lebanese Forces” and the “Progressive Socialist” and the “Kataeb” and figures from the traditional opponents of the “current”. On the other hand, on Azour’s candidacy.

While the division between the “movement” and “Hezbollah” was severe, and it seemed that there was great resentment on the part of the party against Bassil, the effects of this dissonance were not spent in harmony between the “movement” and its former opponents. As sources accompanying the recent contacts between the “forces” and the “movement” confirm that there is no immediate meeting on the agenda between the heads of the “forces” Samir Geagea and the “movement” MP Gebran Bassil, and contacts took place indirectly to reach a convergence over Azour. , which blocks the way for Franjieh. Likewise, this intersection did not result in any prior agreement on a clear program for the next stage after Azour’s election, in the event that he reaches the presidency of the republic, as “everything is left to its time,” as the sources confirm.

internal divisions

As for within the blocs, the new facts produced internal divisions, especially in the “Free Patriotic Movement”, which appeared within its parliamentary bloc (Strong Lebanon), a small bloc that does not support all of Basil’s decisions, and is distinguished from him in the electoral file, and consists of 6 deputies, the most prominent of whom is the vice president. Parliament Elias Bou Saab, who decides whether or not to participate in the meetings himself, while the other five, who are deputies: Ibrahim Kanaan, Simon Abi Ramia, Alain Aoun, Asaad Dergham, and Salim Aoun, participate in the bloc’s meetings, while preserving their presidential distinction, according to what close sources said. who are they.

On the side of the “Change” bloc’s deputies, they were divided between two opinions, one of which was supportive of Azour, and the second supported the “white paper” or a third option, while the Sunni deputies (27 deputies) were divided between 3 positions, some of whom supported Franjieh (about 10 deputies) and some of them decided to vote. Lazour (5 deputies), and others have not yet decided.

“Move with me”

In light of this political divergence that prevents reaching an understanding that ends the presidential vacancy, and eliminates hopes of electing a president in the next session, the Maronite Patriarchate moved in an attempt to heal the rift and circumvent the differences on the basis of “neither victor nor vanquished,” as the Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rai said, last Sunday. .

After the meeting of the envoy of the shepherd, Bishop Boulos Abdel Sater, with the Secretary General of “Hezbollah” Hassan Nasrallah, who affirmed his adherence to Franjieh’s support, Abdel Sater landed on Friday, in Ain al-Tineh, the residence of Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, to meet him.