Iran-backed Hezbollah has publicly declared its support for Suleiman Frangieh, a close ally of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, in the race to become Lebanon’s next president. The announcement was made on Monday by Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah during a televised speech. Frangieh, who comes from a prominent Christian political family in Lebanon, has been described as a friend of the Syrian government throughout the country’s civil war.
Why is it significant that Hezbollah is backing Suleiman Frangieh?
The move is significant as it marks Hezbollah’s strongest show of support for Frangieh, following comments from its Shiite ally, the Amal Movement, last week. The presidency in Lebanon is reserved for a Maronite Christian, and in the deeply fractured 128-seat parliament, a two-thirds majority is required for the first round of voting.
Who is Suleiman Frangieh and what is his connected to Suleiman Frangieh Sr?
Suleiman Frangieh comes from a prominent political family in Lebanon, with a long history of involvement in the country’s politics. His grandfather, Suleiman Frangieh Sr., served as Lebanon’s president from 1970 to 1976, and his father, Tony Frangieh, was a powerful political and military figure who led the Marada Brigade during the Lebanese Civil War. However, Tony Frangieh was assassinated along with his wife, daughter, and several other people in the infamous Ehden Massacre in 1978, which has remained a traumatic event in Lebanon’s history. Despite these setbacks, Suleiman Frangieh has continued to be an influential figure in Lebanese politics and is widely respected for his leadership and experience.
Does Suleiman Frangieh have the support to become Lebanon’s next President?
Despite receiving support from about a third of MPs, mainly from those deeply opposed to Hezbollah, Mr Frangieh still falls short of the 65 votes required for him to be elected. Frangieh’s candidacy is also opposed by the Lebanese Forces party led by Christian politician Samir Geagea, who was responsible for the raid that killed Frangieh’s parents and sister in 1978.
Hezbollah’s main Christian ally is the Free Patriotic Movement, founded by former president Michel Aoun and now led by his son-in-law Gebran Bassil, who is believed to harbour presidential ambitions for himself. However, the relationship between the two parties has cooled in recent months, among other factors, due to Hezbollah’s apparent support for Frangieh and not Mr. Bassil.
Lebanon has been without a president since the end of October when ex-army chief Michel Aoun stepped down at the end of his term. The cabinet of Prime Minister Najib Mikati is in a caretaker status and is severely stripped of its powers as the country grapples with one of the worst economic crises in modern history.