Lebanon’s Franjieh formally announces presidential bid

Lebanese MP and Assad family friend Suleiman Franjieh formally announces bid for presidency

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Lebanese Christian politician and leader of the Marada movement, Suleiman Franjieh, meets with Agriculture Minister Akram Chehayeb (unseen) at his house in Bnechi, northern Lebanon December 7, 2015.

Lebanese lawmaker and family friend of President of the Syrian regime Bashar al Assad, Suleiman Franjieh, formally announced his desire to stand for the Lebanese presidency, an office which has been vacant for 18 months.

"I am a candidate for the presidency, more than any time before," Franjieh said.

Franjieh made the announcement late on Thursday in an interview on LBCI television, saying he has full confidence in a power-sharing plan put forward by Saudi backed Sunni politician Saad al Hariri.

Hariri’s plan makes Christian Maronite Franjieh president, and sees himself reprise the post of prime minister.

The power sharing plan has been widely discussed in Lebanese and international media during the past few weeks, but until now Franjieh did not come forward and formally confirm his intentions.

The plan hopes to revive government institutions paralysed by political rivalries that have been heightened by spillover of the war in neighbouring Syria.

The presidency in Lebanon is reserved for Maronite Christian candidates, while the post of prime minister is reserved for Sunnis and the post of government speaker is reserved for Shiite politicians. Lebanon's prime minister is chosen by the president, who is elected by parliamentary vote.

Other leading Christian figures, notably Michel Aoun, are still vying for the presidency. Aoun is a powerful ally of the Shiite Lebanese militia Hezbollah.

What makes the power sharing plan special?

Lebanon could be the only location in the Arab world where regional rivals Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran can find a middle ground, if Iranian backed factions in Iran agree on the peace deal.

Saudi Arabia already backs Hariri, and has lent its support to the deal, while Iran has said it "hopes to see Lebanon choose a president soon."

Suleiman Franjieh was born in October 1965, and is the grandson of the late Lebanese President Suleiman Franjieh, who he is named after.

The late President Suleiman Franjieh Sr. used to take his grandson Suleiman with him on trips to Damascus to visit his friend, the late Syrian President Hafez al Assad. Young Franjieh developed a close friendship with the Assad family since then, and used to hunt with Bashar al Assad's older brother Bassel, who died in a 1994 car crash.

Franjieh was orphaned in 1978 when a rival Maronite Christian militia attacked his family home in northern Lebanon, killing his father, mother, and three year old sister.

Syria is in a state of dire conflict, in which 250,000 people have been killed, mostly by the regime, and millions displaced internally and externally. Spill over of the violence into Lebanon has been seen since the start of the violence in Syria in March 2011.

Why Lebanon needs a president

Lebanon suffers from a political deadlock caused by being a leaderless country strategically placed between Israel and war torn Syria. With a collectively agreed upon president life can be brought back to many paralysed government institutions, stalled as a result of political divisions and a rapidly growing garbage disposal problem that crippled Beirut last summer.

The shutting down in July of the capital's main landfill site Naameh, which had the capacity to receive only 2 million tonnes of waste but had instead taken in over 15 million tonnes, caused huge amounts of rubbish to mount up in the streets across Beirut.

The pile up triggered anti-government protests and has raised health concerns. Worries have also been growing over contamination should the crisis linger into the upcoming rainy season.

The protests organised by the “You Stink” movement brought thousands from all walks of life onto the streets of Beirut demanding the government solve the problem immediately.

TRTWorld and agencies