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Aoun Nears Lebanon’s Presidency as Hariri Says Willing to Risk his Future | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Aoun speaks after meeting with Hariri on Thursday/ NNA

Beirut-Saad Hariri, Lebanon’s former prime minister and head of the largest parliamentary bloc has admitted that he was willing to take “a political risk” when announcing his support for the candidacy of “Hezbollah’s” ally, the head of the Change and Reform bloc, MP Michel Aoun, for Lebanon’s presidency.

“General Michel Aoun, according to the rules that we agreed on, is candidate to be the president of all the Lebanese, and guardian of their sovereignty, freedom, independence and decisions,” Hariri said on Thursday after meeting with Aoun at his residence in Beirut.

Hariri justified his position by saying he feared for Lebanon.

But, his support for Aoun’s candidacy seemed to have unhinged the March 8 and the March 14 alliances, which are both divided concerning their support for the lawmaker.

The Aoun-Hariri agreement would create several challenges in the country, the first one in the lineup of the next government.

Even if Aoun secures the majority of the votes in Parliament, this would not be sufficient to make him a president during the Oct. 31 parliamentary session.

There are two obstacles preventing the head of the Change and Reform bloc from reaching the presidential palace: The positions of Speaker Nabih Berri and head of the Democratic Gathering bloc MP Walid Jumblat.

Sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Speaker refuses to vote for Aoun and would also reject nominating Hariri for the premiership.

As for Jumblat, despite being in discomfort with Hariri’s speech, he has not dropped the possibility of voting for Aoun, leaving the final decision to a meeting that his parliamentary bloc is expected to hold on Saturday.

Sources said that the date for electing Aoun could be delayed until after October 31, awaiting the removal of obstacles placed by Berri.

The sources said Aoun and Hariri are expecting Hezbollah’s intervention to soften Berri’s stand.

On Thursday afternoon, Hariri delivered a speech to support the candidacy of Aoun, unraveling an agreement to keep the Lebanese state totally neutral from the crisis in Syria.

“What we are dealing with today is a political settlement in every sense of the word. But I will not hide behind my finger, I know that many of you are not convinced of what I am doing, and some of you fear its risks on me, personally and politically, and doubt, based on past experiences, the real intentions of Hezbollah after this announcement,” he said.

Hariri added: “Yes it is a great political risk, but I am ready to take risks on myself, my popularity and my political future a thousand times to protect you all.”

After Hariri delivered his speech, a number of his political allies, mainly the head of his Future bloc MP Fouad Saniora and lawmakers Ahmed Fatfat and Ammar Houri, said they would not abide by the decision to support Aoun’s candidacy.

“With all due respect to Hariri and his initiative to fill the presidential void … I announce my rejection to vote for Aoun,” Fatfat said.