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Lebanon News

The unusual suspects in the presidential race

File - The president 's chair is seen empty in Baabda, Tuesday, March 11, 2014. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: While a known political figure is widely expected to fill the soon-to-be-vacant post of Lebanese president, the lack of selection criteria has given rise to a number of nonpolitical candidates as well, including a few looking for a change from the usual suspects. When a Lebanese citizen decides to run for Parliament, they must meet certain criteria. They must be a Lebanese citizen for more than 10 years, hold a clean judicial record and pay an LL10,000,000 registration fee to be eligible to run. The post of president however, only requires that the candidate be a member of the Maronite sect. If this prerequisite is satisfied, then the candidate only needs to hold a news conference to announce their candidacy.

So far, National Struggle Front bloc MP Henri Helou, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, and March 14 MP Robert Ghanem have officially announced their candidacy. Other names widely tipped for the seat include Kataeb Party leader Amine Gemayel, Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun, Marada Movement head Sleiman Frangieh, former Interior Minister Ziyad Baroud, former parliamentarian Jean Obeid, Army chief Gen. Jean Kahwagi, and Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh.

Despite the expected political candidates, there are four who do not hail from the traditional political class:

Adel Karam

A comedian, actor and talk-show host, Karam launched a Twitter hashtag #AdelKaramForPresident and announced he was running for the post on his late night talk show “Hayda 7akeh.” He is also a cast member on MTV’s sitcom “Ma Fi Metlo.” With a platform not yet announced, it’s unclear whether or not his candidacy is a gag.

His Facebook page notes he is “A vibrant Leo” and “passionate biker” who “spends his leisure time swimming [and] watching movies.”

Rachid Louis Labaky

Labaky is a businessman who hails from Metn’s Baabdat. He graduated from the Byblos campus of the Lebanese American University in 1992 with a bachelor’s degree in business management.

His long and intricately detailed platform includes increasing benefits and giving greater power to religious institutions, both Christian and Muslim. Labaky strictly opposes civil marriage and hunting, and wants to abolish various taxes.

His view on dancing might also be seen as controversial, as he wants to ban nightclubs but provide support for teams practicing traditional Lebanese customs, such as dabke.

The business man has yet to address the issue of nightclubs where people dance dabke.

A video released by Labaky on YouTube showing his image side by side with religious icons has faced derision on social media and by two prominent Lebanese bloggers.

Nadine Moussa

A lawyer from the Metn and mother of two, Moussa is the only woman running for president. Her platform was built on transparency and the “radical change” of the current political system.

Moussa wants to abolish the confessional system and amend banking secrecy laws in Lebanon in order to fight corruption. One of her first steps as president would be to declare all her and her family’s financial assets.

Moussa’s political background includes registering as an independent candidate for the 2013 Parliament election, which never took place. She gained media attention at the time by declaring herself victor in an uncontested parliamentary race.

Antoine Elie al-Rif

Another businessman, Rif’s platform will work for a sovereign, free and independent Lebanon.

Rif’s declaration that he will be running for president was also littered with references to his piousness. His announcement did not go into detail about his platform, but he promised that economic and trade growth would be improved due to his experience in business.

He also emphasized a policy of national unity.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 23, 2014, on page 3.

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Summary

While a known political figure is widely expected to fill the soon-to-be-vacant post of Lebanese president, the lack of selection criteria has given rise to a number of nonpolitical candidates as well, including a few looking for a change from the usual suspects.

The post of president however, only requires that the candidate be a member of the Maronite sect. If this prerequisite is satisfied, then the candidate only needs to hold a news conference to announce their candidacy.

Despite the expected political candidates, there are four who do not hail from the traditional political class:

The business man has yet to address the issue of nightclubs where people dance dabke.

Moussa's political background includes registering as an independent candidate for the 2013 Parliament election, which never took place.


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