BEIRUT: President Michel Sleiman is worried that the election of any of Lebanon’s four key Maronite political leaders could trigger acts of revenge.
“As a citizen, I lived through those [leaders’] tough conflicts that seem to never end. I fear the arrival of one [to the presidency] would spark revenge against the others,” Sleiman said in remarks published Tuesday, in an apparent reference to Kataeb Party head Amine Gemayel, Lebanese Forces boss Samir Geagea, Marada Movement leader Suleiman Frangieh and Michel Aoun, the head of the Free Patriotic Movement.
“It’s time to stop the hate,” Sleiman said in an interview with the local Beirut daily As-Safir.
When asked about his recent conflict with Hezbollah over the Syria crisis, Sleiman stood firm on his convictions and said he had no regrets.
“They [Hezbollah] should have regrets, not me,” he stressed. “They are the ones who abused the tripartite agreement, not us,” Sleiman added in reference to the Hezbollah slogan of “the Army, the resistance and the people.”
Hezbollah, he said, chose to fight in Syria “without asking the Army, the people, or the head of the state if they could afford the consequences of involvement in the Syria war.”
Sleiman, whose six-year term ends on May 24, said that he did not support any specific candidate for the presidential seat.
“I am with whoever gets the majority [of votes] in Parliament and with the one who would carry on the march that I started,” he pledged.
Sleiman also dismissed talk of a consensus candidate.
“I don’t care about a consensus candidate. Good intentions exist, but the reality is something else,” he says. “The practice on the ground in recent history did not convince the people.”
“I’m not questioning the eligibility of the candidates,” he said, pointing out that Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun was one of them.
The leaders of the key Maronite political parties in Lebanon are perennial candidates for the presidency, but all four garner criticism that they are too divisive due to their Civil War-era actions and modern political stances.
Geagea, who lead the Lebanese Forces militia during the Civil War, is the only one of the four who has declared his candidacy, which has the backing of the March 14 coalition, but the Hezbollah-led March 8 opposes him, saying his war-time actions bar him from the presidency.
Gemayel, who was president from 1982-1988, has not announced his candidacy but has suggested that he could be a consensus candidate from March 14.
Aoun, who was Army commander during the Civil War and interim prime minister at the end of the conflict, has said he will not run without a consensus from across the political spectrum. But several March 14 parties have rejected the FPM leader over his relationship with Hezbollah that developed after he returned from 15 years of exile in France.
Frangieh, the grandson of former President Sleiman Frangieh, leads the Marada Movement and has largely remained out of the spotlight in this year's election.