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Lebanon: Franjieh’s Presidency Hope Fading but Future MPs Refuse to Vote for Aoun | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Marada movement leader Suleiman Franjieh at his house in Bnechi, northern Lebanon December 7, 2015. REUTERS/Omar Ibrahim

Beirut-Recent remarks made by Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq and Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat brought back the presidential crisis to the forefront after months of standstill, which heavily affected the functioning of constitutional institutions and the economic situation.

Their statements were not comforting for Marada Movement chief MP Suleiman Franjieh who is a presidential candidate and a close friend of Bashar Assad, the head of the Syrian regime. On the contrary, the remarks of al-Mashnouq and Jumblat reassured Change and Reform bloc chief MP Michel Aoun, who is Franjieh’s rival for the presidential seat.

Sources close to Aoun now believe that the lawmaker is closer to reaching the presidential palace in Baabda more than ever.

Al-Mashnouq said last week that vetoes, which had stopped Aoun from reaching the presidency, have been withdrawn. As for Jumblat, he said on Sunday that “Franjieh’s chances (to reaching Baabda) began dwindling.”

He spoke about “a new presidential candidate,” but said he didn’t know his identity.
It is obvious that Jumblat, who in the past used to reject prospects for Aoun to become president, is now backing him if such a move is in “Lebanon’s interest.”

“The Christian reconciliation cannot be set aside,” he said in reference to the understanding reached between Aoun and Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea, who backs the Change and Reform chief for the presidency.

Jumblat told a TV show that there are efforts to stop Franjieh’s bid for the presidency. The Marada chief might pay the price for heading to Paris for a meeting with Future chief Saad Hariri rather than going to Damascus.

Jumblat’s stances were not welcomed by members of Future Movement.

Minister Nabil de Freij, who is one of Future’s representatives in the cabinet, mocked the PSP chief’s claims that former Prime Minister Hariri should be aware of some close associates.

Future MP Ahmed Fatfat also accused Jumblat of trying to intimidate so-called Hezbollah by claiming that he would back Aoun if it was in Lebanon’s national interest.

Fatfat told Asharq Al-Awsat that, for the time being, Future will not back Aoun.

A large number of Future lawmakers will not vote for the Change and Reform leader “even if the party officially decides to do so,” he said.

“Unlike Jumblat, we continue to back Franjieh for the presidency” to end Lebanon’s political crisis, Fatfat added.