Franjieh Nominates Aoun for Presidency without Withdrawing Own Candidacy
Marada Movement leader MP Suleiman Franjieh announced Thursday that he nominates his ally Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun for the presidency of the republic, noting that he will not run in person without Aoun's "consent."
“My name has been suggested as a possible presidential candidate but I will support General Michel Aoun and I won't accept to run in the election without General Aoun's consent,” Franjieh told LBCI television, in a weekly TV show dedicated to interviewing the major presidential candidates.
“There are two major candidates in our political camp, but General Michel Aoun is the stronger candidate. This does not mean that I have joined the FPM, but Aoun's political choices oblige me to respect his position as well as my loyalty to my political camp,” Franjieh clarified.
“For the Marada Movement, it has been settled, our candidate is General Aoun,” he added.
Asked whether he would support naming Commando Regiment commander Brig. Gen. Chamel Roukoz -- Aoun's son-in-law – as army chief, Franjieh said: “My good relation with Chamel Roukoz and his capabilities speak for themselves.”
“A settlement might lead to the election of a March 8 or March 14 president and I cannot be elected as president except under a settlement in which both camps would be satisfied,” Franjieh noted.
He stressed that the rival March 14 coalition will not endorse his nomination or Aoun's nomination.
Responding to remarks voiced by a pro-March 14 journalist during the TV show, Franjieh said: “They started claiming to be defenders of sovereignty after the Syrian (army's) withdrawal (from Lebanon) and I garnered the highest number of Christian votes (in parliamentary elections) after the Syrians pulled out.”
“No president will be elected – (Lebanese Forces leader) Samir Geagea or anyone else -- without a regional and international settlement,” Franjieh emphasized.
In response to a question, the Marada leader said: “(Syrian President) Bashar Assad is my friend and brother and he will remain so.”
“If I become a president, I will stay in the March 8 camp even if I am open to my rivals, whose rights will be reserved,” he stated.
On his relation with Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat, Franjieh said: “Walid Beik has his political weight in the country and I was told several times that he must be reassured regarding the presidency, but I said that I have allies and I believe in their political approach.”
“I respect his position but I won't seek anyone's approval, as my strength and alliances are the things that might secure my election as president,” he added.
Asked about the issue of eavesdropping, Franjieh said: “I'm not with random tapping of people's conversations and not with assigning tapping to any specific security agency, because even after 9/11 this did not happen. There must be control over eavesdropping and we voiced objections over this issue during today's cabinet session."
"I believe that any issue that enjoys consensus under the National Pact would be implemented without the need for the president's muscle-flexing and any issue outside national consensus will be obstructed, regardless of the president's clout," Franjieh said, when asked about the issue of disarming Hizbullah.
"If Western countries asked me to disarm Hizbullah within three months and put me before two choices -- a problem in my country or a blockade by foreign countries -- I would choose the international blockade in order to preserve domestic peace," he said, in response to a hypothetical question.
President Michel Suleiman's six-year term ends in May but the Constitution states that the parliament should start meeting March 25 to elect a new head of state.
No one has yet officially announced his candidacy for the top post but there are several contenders from the rival March 8 and 14 camps.