BEIRUT: Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea Monday argued that his rival Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun could not be considered a consensus candidate to the presidency in light of the political stances and alliances held by the latter in recent years.
“[Former] Prime Minister Saad Hariri and I discussed all the options available to break the impasse over the presidency. All the options,” Geagea told reporters during a press conference in Paris. “Premiere Hariri then pointed to Aoun’s attempts to present himself as a consensus candidate and I suggested we stop and see to what extent is Aoun really consensual.”
Geagea said he explained to Hariri “very objectively” that Aoun was not behaving as a consensus candidate. He added that Aoun’s deeds, especially when his Change and Reform bloc along with March 8 factions cast blank ballots during the April 23 round of voting denoted that the FPM leader was far from being consensual.
“How did Aoun suddenly become a consensus candidate?” Geagea asked. “Did he scrap the Memorandum of Understanding with Hezbollah? How can he turn into a consensus candidate only nine days ahead of the election, when his [real] position has not changed for the past nine years?"
Geagea, a presidential hopeful, said the dialogue between the Future Movement and Aoun’s FPM was a healthy step, revealing that the LF had sought a similar overture towards Hezbollah but the party was not cooperative.
Geagea noted that he did not oppose any candidate to the presidential election. “If Aoun wins, I will be the first one to pay him a visit and congratulate him,” he told reporters. “But [I believe] that Aoun’s sudden shift in stance is not serious.”
Geagea had rejected media reports quoting him as saying that Hariri believed Michel Aoun to be a “consensus candidate,” saying the statement was taken out of context.
“Some media outlets reported that Geagea quoted former Prime Minister Saad Hariri as backing Free Patriotic Movement head MP Michel Aoun's candidacy, and that is erroneous, incomplete and inaccurate,” the LF office said in a statement.
Earlier in the day, local news websites reported that Geagea had said Hariri proposed Aoun as a consensus candidate for the presidency but that the LF leader was critical of such an opinion given the former general’s dealings with Hezbollah.
Geagea reportedly made his remarks during a news conference in Paris where he held talks with Hariri and Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal a day before.
The LF office said it would distribute the full text of Geagea’s conference soon.
Although a longtime opponent of Aoun, Hariri has shown recent signs of openness to the FPM leader. Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, Aoun's son-in-law, recently held five-hour talks with Hariri over the presidential election.
Media reports emerged recently of a possible deal that would see Aoun as president and Hariri as prime minister in the next Cabinet.
Lebanon has less than a week before President Michel Sleiman's term expires, and Parliament has failed to elect a new head of state after several failed attempts.
Meanwhile, the Kataeb Party urged lawmakers to respect the constitutional deadline of May 25 to elect a president.
“With the constitutional deadline to elect a new president nearing, Kataeb can only raise the voice and call [on lawmakers] to respect the Constitution,” the party said in a statement after its weekly meeting chaired by its head Amine Gemayel.
“The few hours before May 25 should be considered as the day that will not spare those who do not respect deadlines or disputes its mechanism,” it added.
The party also reiterated Gemayel's demand for the speaker to hold consecutive sessions until a president is chosen.