As Lebanon looks to end the country’s seven months of political instability, Jihad Azour and Suleiman Frangieh declared their interest in becoming the next president. The presidential election sessions, which had been on hold for five months, are set to resume on Wednesday. Parliamentary Speaker, Nabih Berri, refused to schedule sessions until at least two serious candidates emerged. So far, none of the previous 11 candidates had come close to reaching the required vote threshold.
However, Azour and Frangieh were widely expected to be the candidates of key groups within the 128-seat parliament. Frangieh, a descendent of a prominent north Lebanese family and a close friend of Syria’s President Bashar Al Assad, has been backed by political party Hezbollah, as well as its Shiite ally Amal. However, only a small number of Christian MPs are expected to support him, including his son Tony.
In contrast, Azour is backed by Lebanon’s largest Christian parties, some of which traditionally differ in beliefs. As a senior official at the International Monetary Fund, Azour has taken a leave of absence to avoid accusations of conflict of interest. He announced his candidacy on Monday, stressing that he was not a “challenge” candidate, rather a candidate of “hope” at a time when Lebanon is divided and facing an economic crisis. He also emphasized that he did not come from an “old political family.”
While Frangieh’s candidacy has the support of Hezbollah, Azour’s supporters have formed a strong union in their efforts to stop Frangieh’s candidature. Nonetheless, Hezbollah’s parliamentary leader, Mohammad Raad, has claimed that Azour’s supporters have backed “a candidate they do not want to see for the presidency of the republic.”
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