Lebanon's prime minister endorses Sleiman Frangieh for presidency

The issue of the presidency has been a fraught one, with a total of five electoral sessions called since September, none of which have resulted in a winning candidate

The empty cabinet room after the six-year term of former Lebanese president Michel Aoun officially ended, at Baabda Palace, on November 1.  EPA
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Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister — and de facto leader, in the absence of an official head of state — endorsed Sleiman Frangieh’s candidacy for president on Monday.

The endorsement comes amid widespread worries over Lebanon's leadership vacuum as the struggling nation hurtles through its third week without a president.

In an Al Jazeera interview, Mr Mikati said that a future president must be “acceptable for all parties and not considered as posing a challenge to anyone.”

“It’s well known that I have a special friendship with Mr Frangieh and that we have a historical relationship,” he told the Arabic channel.

“But I will leave it up to parliament to choose who they will elect.”

Mr Frangieh is the leader of the Marada movement, a Hezbollah-allied Christian political party.

The issue of the presidency has been a fraught one for the months leading up to the end of ex-president Michel Aoun’s term and following it. A total of five electoral sessions have been called since September, none of which have presented a winning candidate.

Blank votes have repeatedly outnumbered the candidate with the most votes — independent MP Michel Moawad — who is seen as the choice of the anti-Hezbollah bloc.

Mr Frangieh has yet to announce his official candidacy, but is believed to have the capability to garner consensus on both sides of the polarised parliament.

Gebran Bassil discusses presidential vacancy in Lebanon

Gebran Bassil discusses presidential vacancy in Lebanon

Lebanon has no formal method of presenting presidential nominees. Rather, names are usually agreed following backdoor consultations between major political parties and blocs.

Prime Minister Mikati’s endorsement of Mr Frangieh is an indication of his increasing support. It remains to be seen whether other Sunni leaders will follow suit with similar endorsements.

The head of the Hezbollah group’s parliamentary bloc, Mohammad Raad, announced last week that his party has a preferred candidate in mind for the presidency. It is widely believed the Iran-backed party supports Mr Frangieh.

Historically, the election of a president has often been a drawn-out affair — as with Mr Aoun, who became head of state following a prolonged presidential vacuum of two-and-a-half years, and whose term ended without consensus over his successor.

Updated: November 15, 2022, 2:39 PM