Beirut: Political tension in Lebanon rose to an unprecedented level on Tuesday with the decision taken by former Prime Minister Saad Hariri to endorse Michel Aoun, head of the Change and Reform parliamentary bloc, for the country’s vacant presidency.
Speaker Nabih Berri alluded that adopting Aoun for the post could lead to a “civil war” and might engender “severe consequences that threaten coexistence and the Taif Accord,” due to an agreement that sources from Berri’s camp say was reached between “the powerful ally of Iran and Hezbollah [Aoun] and their mortal enemy [Hariri].”
Sources close to the matter told Asharq Al-Awsat that Hariri is expected to announce his support for Aoun’s candidacy today during a televised speech.
Yet, as the “moment of truth” was approaching, division became clear in the positions of political leaders in the country.
Hariri told everybody about his desire to endorse Aoun for presidency. Aoun is also supported by his ally Hezbollah and by the Lebanese Forces, whose leader Samir Geagea recently collaborated with Aoun.
On the opposite level, Berri heads a movement obstructing Aoun’s candidacy. This movement is supported by MP Suleiman Franjieh, whom Hariri had earlier nominated for the presidential elections, and by leftist parties allied with Syria, in addition to some Christian and Muslim independent figures.
As for MP Walid Jumblatt, he once again plays the role of the “casting vote” by distancing himself from both sides.
According to a number count, Aoun will be elected President in the next parliamentary session in case Jumblatt accepts to support him. If not, then Aoun’s election would depend on Hariri’s capability to insure more than 25 votes out of his 36-member parliamentary bloc.
Aoun’s opponents bet on Hariri’s disability to allocate the votes of his entire parliamentary bloc in favor of Aoun, due to the historical hostility between the two leaders. Therefore, the next parliamentary session is open to all scenarios in case Franjieh refuses to withdraw his candidacy.
Sources close to the Speaker see in the latest developments a “suspicious alliance” that “left Lebanon with a big malfunction and had threatened to mix the papers to a point of taking the country towards chaos, already spread in the region.”
Berri’s sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the two parties [Aoun and Hariri] had turned against national dialogue, the institutions and the Taif Accord.
The sources said that Berri and his allies were suspicious about the latest developments because both Aoun and Hariri were still linchpins, one [Hariri] leading a hostility against Iran and Syria, and a second [Aoun] supporting Iran and Bashar Assad.