BEIRUT: Speaker Nabih Berri is reportedly seeking to persuade Hezbollah to adopt the presidential bid of MP Sleiman Frangieh rather than miss the chance to elect a March 8 candidate.
"Berri contacted Hezbollah [officials] days ago, explaining the necessity of swiftly electing [Marada Movement leader] Frangieh as head of state ahead of any Iranian-Saudi dialogue," sources close to the speaker told local daily Al-Akhbar Saturday.
The newspaper goes on to say that Berri's endeavor is to "ensure the election of a March 8 nominee instead of miss the chance, as it's impossible for [Change and Reform leader MP Michel] Aoun to reach the presidency."
Tensions soared between political coalitions in the country after nominations for two main presidential candidates, Aoun and Frangieh, emerged.
Frangieh and Aoun are both March 8 leaders. The endorsement of their nominations by Future Movement and Lebanese Forces respectively have sharply divided the political alliances.
However, unnamed sources told the daily that Hezbollah is holding onto its decision to support Aoun's presidential bid.
A speech carried out by Aoun Monday reportedly widened the already strained relationship with Berri after the founder of the Free Patriotic Movement, Aoun, reiterated his argument that the current Parliament is illegitimate, and is therefore unfit to elect a new president.
Aoun has slammed the extension of Parliament’s mandate twice since 2013. “How can a Parliament that lacks legitimacy elect a legitimate president?” he asked. Aoun also called on FPM supporters to roll up their sleeves and prepare to take to the streets to bring about a change in the current political situation.
His remarks drew a quick response from Berri through his top political aide, Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil, who implicitly hit back at Aoun in a speech during a ceremony marking the foundation of the Amal Movement, held at the Lebanese University in Hadath.
Al-Liwaa newspaper reported Saturday that Berri emphasized the importance of unity in Lebanon, vowing to “challenge division projects [in Lebanon] even if the confrontation is armed.”
The speaker further underlined that any attempt to divide the country would be considered a “red line,” warning of attempts to draw conflict into Lebanon.