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The New Arab

New Lebanese presidential candidate stirs rival camps

Hariri, a former prime minister, reportedly wants a solution to Lebanon's presidential impasse [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 26 November, 2015

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Lebanon's main political camps have both reacted to reports that a pro-Syrian regime figure, Marada Movement chief MP Suleiman Franjieh, could emerge as a compromise presidential candidate.
The leading rival political camps in Lebanon have been facing up to reports that a pro-Syrian regime figure, Suleiman Franjieh, could emerge as a compromise presidential candidate.

Franjieh, the Marada Movement chief MP and a Christian leader in the March 8 political camp, met with the Future Movement leader, Saad Hariri of the March 14 camp, last week in Paris.

Franjieh has also reportedly held separate meetings with Druze leader Walid Jumblatt and the Kataeb Party leader Sami Gemayel.

Following the meeting with Hariri, reports emerged that Hariri wanted to end the presidential impasse and is backing Franjieh to be the next president of the republic.

Disputes between the March 8 and March 14 camps have prevented the Lebanese parliament from voting for a new president. The country's top job has been vacant since May 2014.

Franjieh has said that the meeting with Hariri lasted two hours.

"I provided him with my presidential programme," he said.

The March 14 camp is reportedly worried that Hariri has already coordinated with his supporters in Saudi Arabia, and is serious about formally nominating Franjieh for president.

The March 8 camp has also been shaken - as their presidential candidate has always and undisputedly been MP Michel Aoun.

As-Safir newspaper on Wednesday reported that efforts were ongoing to hold a meeting between Franjieh and his ally, Aoun, the head of the Change and Reform bloc, to discuss the latest developments.

After the double suicide attack in Burj al-Barajneh in Beirut's suburbs, politicians have been desperate to solve many of the political disputes in the country, particularly the presidential vacuum.

Several leading politicians have been calling for political compromise and a collective national settlement. This is why this new proposal will likely be formally discussed and not totally dismissed as has happened on previous occasions, particularly when controversial figures such as Aoun and Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea were put forward.

However, many politicians, particularly from Hariri's own Future Movement, are reportedly yet to be convinced, and are concerned that this move could equate to handing the Lebanese presidency to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Franjieh has always declared his loyalty to Assad and his regime and sides by the Baathist government against the Syrian uprising.

Ahmad Fatfat, a prominent member of the Future Movement, told al-Araby al-Jadeed that Hariri "did not make any commitment to Franjieh", and said that Hariri was still in the "consultation phase".

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