Head of the Lebanese Forces Samir Geagea believes that there are currently so solutions that can resolve the presidential vacuum in Lebanon.
“We have grown accustomed to tactics used by Hezbollah in previous presidential elections,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat.
He explained that the party will allow the situation to reach its worst possible point “so that we can relent to what it wants.”
Despite all the efforts, talks and meetings, Hezbollah has “not moved an inch” in its position over the election of its candidate, head of the Marada movement Suleiman Franjieh, as president.
“Hezbollah is insistent on its candidate and we, as the opposition, are not ready to succumb to the pressure and agree to a ‘solution’ that would deepen the crisis,” Geagea stressed.
“Unfortunately, a solution is unlikely any time soon. We are facing a major crisis and we must do what we can to resolve it,” he went on to say.
Lebanon has been without a president since late October when the term of Michel Aoun ended. Numerous elections sessions have been held, but no candidate had garnered enough votes to be declared the victor. Political parties continue to bicker over Aoun’s successor.
“We cannot simply elect any president, who may deepen the crisis. Hezbollah wants Franjieh or someone with the same mindset. Even if it changes its mind on Franjieh’s alternative, the party will propose a candidate that would be incapable of tackling the crisis,” Geagea remarked.
“Effectively, the real crisis is that Hezbollah does not really want a president for Lebanon,” he explained.
Furthermore, Geagea revealed a change in his stance on providing quorum at parliament for presidential elections to be held.
He said that the LF would not provide the needed quorum so as to prevent the election of Hezbollah’s favored candidate.
He noted that throughout the past four months since Lebanon was plunged in vacuum, the LF has followed all the rules in regards to the election. “But, when Hezbollah and its allies choose to ruin the rules of the game, we will seek a solution that will prevent them from leading the country towards more vacuum,” Geagea said.
“If they can garner 65 votes for their candidate, then we will be confronted with deeper Arab isolation, the West will drop Lebanon from its list of priorities and the country will be run the same way it has been in the past six years,” which has led it to its current crisis, he continued.
“Confronted with these possibilities, will we attend the elections? No, we will not and we will definitely boycott them,” he declared.
He lamented that at the moment, a roadmap for a solution is still not available.
Moreover, Geagea revealed that the LF has been contacted by local and international parties that proposed agreeing to Franjieh’s election as part of a package deal.
“We informed them that the problem does not revolve around Franjieh’s election, but agreeing to him would deepen, rather than resolve, the crisis. So as it stands, this option is out of the question,” he added. Geagea did not disclose the parties that approached the LF.
Asked by Asharq Al-Awsat if the LF would agree to a president who is accepted by all parties, he replied that he would agree if this candidate was “moderate and flexible and enjoyed good relations with all sides. At the same time, he needs to be an actual president.”
On the option to elect a “consensual” president, he explained that such a figure usually “does not have a voice, opinion or strong personality. They are weak and are incapable of making any accomplishment. So of course, we will not accept this option.”
Admittedly, the opposition has few candidates to choose from. Geagea said that efforts are underway to garner enough votes for Michel Mouawad. “This is the only thing we can do at the moment,” he stated.
He clarified, however, that neither Mouawad nor the LF are adamant about his election, but at the moment, no other suitable or better alternative candidate has emerged.
“So, we will continue to garner enough support for him,” he added.
Moreover, Geagea dismissed the importance of communication with Hezbollah to resolve the impasse. He cited how head of the Progressive Socialist Party Walid Jumblatt had personally met with Hezbollah officials and made proposals over a settlement, but to no avail. The situation has remained unchanged.
If communication is held on such a high level without a breakthrough being reached, then what hopes can be pinned on lower level contacts? he wondered.
“We are running around in the same empty circle,” he remarked. “Hezbollah may be calling for dialogue, but it really means dialogue over Franjieh’s elections, nothing more.”
On whether dialogue was possible between the LF and Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) given the strained relations between its leader Gebran Bassil and his ally, Hezbollah, Geagea was quick to reply: “I very much doubt that because the past six years have demonstrated how this group [FPM] acts.”
However, he acknowledged that some form of exchange of views has taken place with the FPM through the Maronite Patriarchate in Bkirki.
“So far, the FPM has not made any proposals. It has only called for agreement, but on what? Nothing,” added Geagea. “This is the sum of it.”
“The FPM is actually using Bkirki’s support to strengthen its negotiating position with Hezbollah. It is expanding its contacts to also strengthen its position with the party,” he noted.
Turning to regional developments, Geagea reiterated his rejection of Arab openness towards the Syrian regime.
He said this was a “moral stand given that no country on earth is as miserable as Syria given the actions of Bashar al-Assad.”
The Syrian people have been displaced all over the world and are enduring endless suffering in refugee camps, he added.
“Assad must be capable of returning to the Arab fold for Syria to return to the fold,” he stressed. “As it stands, Syria is not a sovereign state. Damascus’ fate lies in the hands of Russia and Iran.”
“Assad does not have a say in affairs, rather Russia or Iran speak on his country’s behalf,” he remarked, while also noting Türkiye and the United States’ involvement in Syria.
“It is very unfortunate that some officials would disregard the tragedies of the Syrian people and instead seek dialogue with Assad to return Syria to the Arab fold,” he added. “Assad, meanwhile, is indefinitely seated in the Iranian and Russian lap. He does not have the choice to leave this position. Nothing is in his hands now.”