The Levant Exclusive with Collaboration with L’Indro – Hezbollah said on Thursday, Nov 13, it considered Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun a consensus presidential candidate, while the “14 March Coalition” that opposes Aoun and Hezbollah accuse them of hindering the presidential elections if Aoun would not be the only candidate to be elected.
“[Aoun] has full agency over his decisions and has no foreign agenda … and he heads the largest Christian bloc and he might be the only [real] leader of Christians in Lebanon and the Middle East,” said Hussein Khalil, a political aide to Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah.
“If we want to agree on a person to fill the presidential seat, he should be a man like General Aoun. This is a conviction that we will not change until further notice,” he added.
Hezbollah’s repeated position came after a nearly six-month vacuum in the presidency, the top Christian seat of the country.
It is worth to note that the Lebanese Parliament had voted on November 5, 2014, to extend again its mandate by an additional two years and seven months. 95 MPs voted in favor of the extension, two opposed, while by the Change and Reform bloc(20 members), led by MP Michel Aoun has boycotted the vote.
This vote was the second time the current lawmakers, elected in 2009 for four-year terms, extend their mandate.
Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri had told lawmakers at the onset of the extension session that he would prefer if they elected a president instead. “We’re having a legislative session right now. I don’t mind that after I close the session, I turn it to one for electing a president, if quorum was maintained,” Berri told lawmakers.
The quorum of electing a president requires the two thirds of the total of PMs, that means 86 of 128. Due to the political division in Lebanon into two great coalitions, “14 March” and “8 March” coalitions, none of them can elect a president if the other coalition did not attend the session to assure the quorum.
Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, a member of Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement, slammed the session as a “holdup of Parliament.” He added: “Holding [parliamentary] elections could have been a solution to the presidential election and not vice versa.”
The head of Lebanon’s Maronite Christian community, Patriarch Beshara Boutros Rai called the extension “illegitimate and unconstitutional”, slamming lawmakers for “violating the constitution” by causing presidential vacuum and extending their own term”.
“Deputies are using their power to cause paralysis at the presidential post due to their personal and foreign interests. The church will double its efforts in meeting the needs of the families,” he said.
Lebanese media reported that Cardinal Rai has told MPs to not visit him before electing a president, in an attempt to urge them to do their jobs and fill the presidential vacuum, in the first Christian position in Lebanon.
Lebanese officials justify the extension by security reasons due to the tense situation in North Lebanon and in Ersal town in Bekaa, on the border with Syria. Prime Minister Tammam Salam said the extension aimed at preventing the country from plunging into a power vacuum.
The extremist groups of “Nusra Front” and ISIS in Syria have attacked a Lebanese army station in Ersal village in August 2014, and they captured about 40 soldiers and policemen and took them to Ersal hills which are an extension to the Syrian town of Kalamoun. These terrorist groups have executed two soldiers and are threatening of killing the other if the Lebanese government won’t release about 200 terrorists from the Lebanese prisons.
The negotiations between the Lebanese authorities and the terrorist groups have not reached a deal yet, although there is a Qatari mediator who is trying to convince the extremists to not kill any of the hostages, in their attempt to pressure the Lebanese government. The families of hostages have not kept silent, they had cut many main roads in Lebanon and installed a strike camp near the government palace in Beirut. The terrorist groups are trying to play this emotional card by calling the hostages families to pressure the government to respond their demands, that create a division inside the cabinet, while some ministers don’t approve the release of terrorists that have killed Lebanese citizens and soldiers by their explosions and blasts.
Some of these demands are not realistic, among them the withdrawal of Hezbollah troops from Syria. Hezbollah meddling in the neighbor country has started in 2012 in terms of defending the Shiite holy shrines in Damascus, and some Lebanese villages on the border with Syria, that were threatened by the Takfiri groups such as “Nusra Front”, ISIS and other Salafi Jihadi groups.
This pretext has no longer valid after Hezbollah intervening in other cities and areas to assist its ally, the Syrian regime of President Bashar Assad. Hezbollah’s intervention was crucial in balancing the military situation in Syria for the favor of Assad, although the Lebanese Shiite groups has paid a big price, few hundreds of killed and wounded fighters and few captured.
Sources close to Hezbollah told L’Indro that Hezbollah preemptive intervention in Syria was for three reasons:
1-Preventing those “takfiri” groups from destroying the Shiite shrines in Damascus countryside that would create a Sunni-Shiite strife in the region, as it happened when Al-Qaeda of Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi destroyed the Mosque of Imams in Sameraa in 2007.
2-Defending the Lebanese villages of Bekaa on the border with Syria from the assaults of Salafi- Jihadi groups in Qusair and Kalamoun cities.
3-Supporting the Syrian army and preventing the fall of Syria under the control of Syrian rebels and foreign Jihadists that would change the military balance in the region and block the logistic road of the “resistance” in Lebanon. Hezbollah has been representing the resistance against the Israeli occupation since 1982. While the Israeli army has withdrawn from the Lebanese territories in May 2000, they are still occupying the Shebaa Farms and Kafarshuba Mountains, that Lebanon considers a Lebanese soil and legalizes the military resistance to get it back.
For Hezbollah, the fall of Assad’s regime means that a new opponent regime will replace it and will hinder its supply of weapons from Tehran, and weaken its position in Lebanon and the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah’s axis, knows as “the Resistance axis”.
From the other side, 14 March coalition has refused Hezbollah meddling in Syria and has announced its support for the “Syrian revolution” against Assad’s regime. The Lebanese division over the Syrian crisis has become deep since 2011 and the migration of nearly 1.2 million Syrian displaced to Lebanon threat the stability of the country.