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The sad reality of Lebanese Politics sees Hariri Endorse Aoun for President

Former Lebanese PM Hairi endorses Aoun for presidential election in a bid to end the political deadlock

October 22


London , United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland - 22 Oct 2016 - Foreign Ministry

Michel Aoun, a former military chief and ally of the armed Hezbollah group, is set to become Lebanon's new president after receiving an endorsement from rival and former prime minister Saad Hariri. Thursday's endorsement paves the way for the 81-year old Maronite Christian leader to fill the post that has been vacant since May 2014. The head of the Lebanese future movement and former Prime Minister Saad Hariri has openly nominated Hezbollah's Christian Ally Michel Aoun for Presidency of the country.

"I announce today before you my decision to endorse the candidacy of General Michel Aoun for the presidency of the republic," Hariri said.He described his decision as necessary to "protect Lebanon, protect the [political] system, protect the state and protect the Lebanese people".

Hariri said the endorsement came after he had exhausted all other options and was intended "to preserve the political system, reinforce the state, relaunch the economy, and distance us from the Syrian crisis.

"We want to protect our country from this crisis," he added. For two years and five months, the Lebanese parliament has been unable to agree on a successor to former president Michel Suleiman. Lebanon's 128-member parliament is now expected to convene next week for a session to vote on the president - the 46th such session since Suleiman's term expired in May 2014. Lebanon's president is reserved for a Christian candidate under a power-sharing agreement.

The endorsement comes as a surprise with speculation that it is the result of a deal that will allow Hariri to return as prime minister. The move "raises some eyebrows" within Hariri's Saudi and Western-backed Sunni-majority party. At least two senior members of Hariri's party announced they would oppose Aoun's nomination. "Hariri is finding himself in a very difficult position," and the appointment of an octogenarian is not likely to lead to any stability unless the president's duties are only ceremonial, which is not the case in Lebanon.

Aoun is allied with the Shia movement Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran and has dispatched fighters to neighbouring Syria to bolster the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. He served as head of the armed forces and briefly as prime minister during Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war, when he was a staunch opponent of Syrian military presence in Lebanon. But he shocked many by brokering an alliance with Damascus ally Hezbollah in 2006, a year after his return from exile in France and after Syria pulled its troops from Lebanon.

The current war in Syria has deepened existing divisions in Lebanon, with Hezbollah and its allies backing Assad's regime, while Hariri and his partners support the uprising against him.More than one million Syrian refugees have also sought shelter in Lebanon, straining the country's already stretched resources and infrastructure.

Resigned Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi warned Wednesday that ex-PM Saad Hariri would be committing "another strategic mistake" if he endorses Free Patriotic Movement founder MP Michel Aoun for the presidency.

“How can ex-PM Hariri hand over the country to a figure linked to the Iranian project? Aoun has endorsed the Iranian project since 2005 and we don't trust the promises he launched yesterday,” Rifi said in an interview on MTV.

He also slammed Hariri's declared presidential candidate, Marada Movement chief MP Suleiman Franjieh, as a “copy” of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Rifi also said that Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq and Hariri's advisers Ghattas Khoury and Nader Hariri are to blame for the ex-PM's “deviation from the principles” of the March 14 coalition. Turning to the issue of the so-called package deal that Speaker Nabih Berri has proposed, the minister saluted Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi for his rejection of the suggestion.

“I salute Patriarch al-Rahi and the call of the Maronite bishops seeing as we cannot accept the package deal that is a veiled attempt to pounce on coexistence and our rights as citizens,” he said.

“The package deal encroaches on the jurisdiction of the president and the premier and we will not endorse the system of Iran's supreme guide,” Rifi warned. Separately, the resigned minister announced that he does not have a regional “financial supporter.”

Rifi, who for several years was loyal to Hariri's al-Mustaqbal Movement, has repeatedly criticized the ex-PM's decision to endorse Franjieh for the presidency, and in May he backed an electoral list in Tripoli's municipal polls that managed to achieve a stunning victory against a list backed by Hariri, ex-PM Najib Miqati, ex-ministers Mohammed Safadi and Faisal Karami, Jamaa Islamiya, Ahbash and the Arab Democratic Party.

The justice minister has been accused of resorting to “sectarian incitement” and to the continued use of the assassinations that targeted March 14 figures in his political rhetoric.“He should stop involving the name of Rafik Hariri in his political rhetoric and should stop attacking the Hariris in the name of Rafik Hariri,” Saad Hariri said in a speech in June.“To all those who suddenly became experts in Rafik Hariri, Harirism and its principles, a small reminder: Every time Rafik Hariri was asked about the most important thing in the world, he answered: Honesty! And what is the basis of honesty? Loyalty,” Hariri added.

The sad reality is that the problems that Lebanon faces are caused by the incumbent leaders which even after 40 years in power, cannot find the courage to finally let go and allow a new generation of leaders to emerge and take over the reigns of power. So far, all our previous leaders have failed miserably at achieving stablity for a country that by its very nature, should not only be stable, but should be an economic powerhouse, rather than the sad state which we call Lebanon.


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