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Supporting Christian Ally: Hezbollah and the Lebanese Presidency

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Hezbollah announced that it would support Maronite Christian politician Suleiman Franjieh, who previously served as a cabinet minister, to become the country’s next president.

Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah said on Monday that he had met Gebran Bassil, leader of the Free Patriotic Movement.

Nasrallah said in a speech, “I informed Basil that Hezbollah considers him and Suleiman Franjieh as candidates for the presidency.”

Bassil did not run for the position of former President Michel Aoun, who left the post in October 2022 after a six-year term.

Nasrallah said, “The natural candidate that we returned to in the presidential elections and who has the characteristics that we take into account is Minister Suleiman Franjieh.”

The Hezbollah leader said he had started a dialogue with allies to support Franjieh for the presidency.

Franjieh, 57, held several ministerial positions, including health and housing.

Despite Hezbollah’s backing, Franjieh still needs the support of the other blocs – support that can be hard to come by.

Frangieh, a Maronite Christian, does not have the support of the largest Christian blocs in parliament and is opposed by many in the Western-backed coalition because of his alliance with Hezbollah and his close personal friendship with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Franjieh, 57, and Army Commander General Joseph Aoun are the main candidates for the post of president. It is believed that Hezbollah opposes the army chief’s bid for the presidency because he has the support of the United States

Lebanon’s deeply divided parliament has failed to elect a speaker in the 11 sessions held since the term of President Michel Aoun, also a Hezbollah ally, expired in late October.

Nasrallah said that Hezbollah will not accept that foreign countries impose a president on Lebanon, nor will it accept a foreign “veto” against any candidate, apparently referring to Franjieh.

Nasrallah’s announcement came days after Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri announced that he supported Franjieh for the presidency. Franjieh has not publicly announced that he is running for office.

Despite the support of Hezbollah and Berri’s Amal Movement, the country’s two largest Shiite groups, Franjieh will still need the support of other parliamentary blocs, as neither alliance has a majority in the 128-seat legislature.

Franjieh said recently that his close alliances with Hezbollah and the Assad government give him an advantage against other candidates as he can talk them into making concessions in favor of Lebanon.

According to Lebanon’s power-sharing system, the president must be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim, and the speaker of parliament a Shiite Muslim. Seats in Parliament and the Council of Ministers are divided equally between Christians and Muslims.

Franjieh, the leader of the Marada movement, hails from a well-known political family from northern Lebanon. His grandfather – the man who bears his name – was a former Lebanese president. When he was 13 years old, his father, Tony Frangieh, was killed along with his mother and sister in an infamous 1978 massacre by rival Maronite Christian forces in the mountain resort of Ehden.

In 2018, Franjieh reconciled with Christian leader Samir Geagea, who led the raid in Ehden, but was seriously wounded and withdrew from the operation.

Geagea, whose Lebanese Forces party holds the largest bloc in parliament, is fiercely opposed to Franjieh becoming president and has vowed to do everything in his power to prevent him from getting the position.

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