Hariri Formally Endorses Aoun, Says Decision a 'Major Political Risk' that He's Willing to Takeإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
Al-Mustaqbal Movement leader ex-PM Saad Hariri formally endorsed Thursday the presidential nomination of Free Patriotic Movement founder MP Michel Aoun, describing his decision as a “major political risk” that he is willing to take for the sake of the country.
“Based on the points of agreement that we have reached, I announce today before you my decision to endorse the nomination of General Michel Aoun for the presidency of the republic,” said Hariri in a speech at the Center House -- his downtown Beirut residence.
“This decision stems from the need to protect Lebanon, the political system, the State and people... It is a decision based on an agreement to cooperate to preserve the system, strengthen the State, reactivate economy and dissociate ourselves from the Syrian crisis,” he added.
He noted that Aoun will be “a president for all Lebanese and a guardian of their sovereignty, freedom, independence, and the choices that unite them, not the choices of discord.”
“He will be keen, like us, on showing openness towards all political forces,” Hariri reassured.
Disclosing the agreements that preceded his decision to endorse Aoun, the ex-PM said he agreed with the FPM founder on preserving “the State and the political system.”
“We openly agreed that no one will propose any amendment to the system before securing national consensus from all Lebanese on such a proposal,” he added.
“In our dialogue, we also agreed on reactivating the State and its institutions and reviving the economy, the main services and job opportunities,” Hariri revealed.
“We also reached an agreement on fully dissociating our State, the Lebanese State, from the crisis in Syria. We want to protect our country from this crisis... and we would restore our normal ties with the Syrians after the end of the crisis and after the Syrians agree on their system, country and state,” the ex-PM added.
He noted that he reached the choice of endorsing Aoun after exhausting all other options.
“Our first choice in nominating (Lebanese Forces leader) Dr. Samir Geagea, ex-president Amin Gemayel or any March 14 representative failed to produce a president. Our second choice of a consensual, centrist candidate also did not lead to the election of a president.
“And our third choice in nominating Suleiman Beik Franjieh, who has become a friend and will remain a friend, also did not lead to a president, seeing as no party other than us made a real attempt to secure his election,” he said.
“We had only one choice left: General Michel Aoun. I'm saying it clearly and frankly, especially after our allies in the LF endorsed his nomination,” Hariri explained.
He described his step as “a political settlement par excellence.”
“I know that a lot of you are not convinced with what I'm doing and some of you fear the risks that it poses to me, personally and politically. I know that a lot of you have doubts regarding Hizbullah's true intentions... and are suggesting that I'm sacrificing my popularity and maybe some votes in the next parliamentary polls,” he added.
“Yes, this is a major political risk, but I'm willing to risk myself, my popularity and my political future one thousand times to protect all of you,” Hariri went on to say.
“It will not be the first time that we sacrifice our political and popular interests for the sake of the country, the State and stability,” he added.
Lebanon has been without a president since the term of Michel Suleiman ended in May 2014 and Hizbullah, Aoun's Change and Reform bloc and some of their allies have been boycotting the parliament's electoral sessions, stripping them of the needed quorum.
Hariri had launched an initiative in late 2015 to nominate Hizbullah's ally MP Suleiman Franjieh for the presidency but his proposal was met with reservations from the country's main Christian parties as well as Hizbullah.
The supporters of Aoun's presidential bid have argued that he is more eligible than Franjieh to become president due to the size of his parliamentary bloc and his bigger influence in the Christian community.