Head of the Lebanese Forces Samir Geagea usually prefers to remain optimistic, in contrast to the dreariness in Lebanon that is grappling with an unprecedented economic crisis.
The situation has also worsened with the country plunging in presidential vacuum with rival political forces failing to elect a successor to Michel Aoun and with questions being raised about the legitimacy of the caretaker government.
“We need to double efforts to end the crisis,” Geagea told Asharq Al-Awsat.
He said his main concern now lies in easing the social suffering that has hit the weakest segments of society the hardest and also ensuring the election of a president that will effectively mark the beginning of the road to salvation.
However, Geagea believes that the election of a president to simply fill a vacancy is not the right way to resolve the crisis.
He stressed that Lebanon needs a president who would be different than Aoun.
Choosing one who is just like him will only endlessly prolong the crisis, he warned.
Rather, the election of a competent president would bring hope to Lebanon, he noted.
Geagea openly holds Hezbollah and its allies responsible for the crises plaguing the country, and therefore, he sees no point in holding dialogue with them.
“We believe that the other party, meaning the ‘resistance axis’, is the reason why we are here today. We cannot hold dialogue over ending the crisis with the parties that caused it,” he explained.
Moreover, he remarked that even the daily practices of this camp bode ill for Lebanon. He elaborated by saying: “Since the eruption of the crisis three years ago, the other camp boasted the majority in parliament and the government. Did it do anything to address the crisis? Did it cease the heinous practices it was committing? In both cases, the answer is no.”
Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati had a vision over how to partially ease the electricity crisis, but the other camp prevented him from doing anything.
Asked if he is hopeful about the election of a president, Geagea said: “We have not reached a dead end. There are 15 lawmakers who have positioned themselves in the center. Some have voted for candidates who have no chance of becoming president and others have submitted blank votes.”
“We, as an opposition group, have openly declared that we want the election of a president who can kick off the recovery process and contribute to it. We don’t want a president who is just there to fill a vacuum. We want a president who can help in the required recovery process,” he urged.
“We hope the others realize the need for this,” he said.
Geagea said he was willing relinquish the LF’s candidate for the presidency and Michel Moawad was willing to abandon his run if there was a “convincing alternative who enjoys the desired qualifications and can garner the most votes.”
On the LF’s support for holding the presidential elections with two thirds quorum at parliament and its differences with Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rai who called on Sunday for the regular quorum to be adopted, Geagea said there is no dispute because “we have not taken a final decision over the issue.”
“This issue is being proposed at the wrong time. What’s the point of bringing it up right now?” he continued.
“This issue had never been brought up before the resistance axis came to power in Lebanon. It is being raised to obstruct the elections, not resolve it,” he added.
“In the past, parliamentary blocs used to respect themselves and the people who voted for them. They used to go to parliament and elect a new president even if they had not secured the majority that they needed,” he remarked, noting how Suleiman Franjieh was elected president in 1970 with only a one vote margin over his nearest rival.
“The MPs need to show enough dignity and honor to show up at parliament and hold the elections,” said Geagea.
“The withdrawal of one MP from the electoral session is understandable, so is the withdrawal of a bloc, but it is shameful for the elections to be obstructed every time when their candidate doesn’t have the highest chance of winning,” he stressed.
He acknowledged that the LF did it “once or twice or even more” just so it could influence the positions of other blocs, “but we never refrained from showing up to elections like others are deliberately doing in order to make rivals yield to their demands.”
At this, Geagea was critical of Speaker Nabih Berri whom he said should ensure that work is maintained at the only functioning constitutional institution.
He should therefore, call on the heads of blocs that are refraining from showing up at the polls to be present at the electoral sessions.
“The resistance axis is obstructing the elections and it is not doing so in wait of an international settlement,” he charged.
During the first elections session, Hezbollah wanted the election of Suleiman Franjieh as president, but it did not have enough support for the candidate, so it has resorted to obstructing the polls until head of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) MP Gebran Bassil has a change of heart, “which I believe will be very unlikely.”
“What sort of logic is this? If no consensus is available, then there is no need to show up at elections?” wondered Geagea.
“Whoever wants consensus must speak to other parties and propose their candidate and qualifications. The consensus they are after is for us to support the Hezbollah candidate, which is impossible for us and mad for them to envisage,” he declared.
“Until further notice, the only hope lies in the 65 MPs, excluding the resistance axis,” he said, while expressing his disappointment in some MPs who chose to play a centrist role.
Geagea stressed that it was “impossible” to reach an understanding with Hezbollah and the FPM. “We have seen their practices and know their true colors.”
“Even after the country collapsed, they still hold the same positions and carry out their same old practices that cannot yield solutions to the crises. They have not derived any lessons from what has happened,” he went on to say.
“I am not waiting for anything from them, but will look to the other MPs who are not part of the resistance axis,” he revealed.
“We are working tirelessly every day to persuade various MPs, but it is a very challenging task,” he admitted.
“Hezbollah has its own major project that is rooted in religion, history and geography, and therefore, it wants to hold dialogue to impose its conditions. That is why we will not talk to them because it is a waste of time when we don’t have a minute to spare,” he stated.