Hezbollah continues to support the presidential candidacy of Free Patriotic Movement leader Gen. Michel Aoun and will continue to do so as long as Aoun wishes to remain a candidate, the party's Secretary-General Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah said in a 74-minute televised speech Friday night.
"As long as you are a candidate, we are with you," Nasrallah affirmed, addressing Aoun directly. "We're ready to do whatever we can to get you to the presidency."
Echoing remarks made by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri earlier in the week regarding whether Hezbollah would force its allies in the March 8 coalition, including Berri's Amal Movement, which currently backs Marada Movement chief Sleiman Franjieh's candidacy, to vote for Aoun, Nasrallah said, "our relationship with our allies is not like that."
"We and our allies have our differences, but we don't impose things on them. Neither of us would accept that we force them to do something. Those who believe we do are insulting our allies."
The Hezbollah leader discussed several previous stages of development on what he called the "presidential file," beginning with contacts between Aoun and the Future Movement in 2014.
"We told Aoun we'd be happy if this worked out," said Nasrallah. In the end, however, "Saudi Arabia vetoed it."
He then turned to the meeting between Future leader Saad al-Hariri and Franjieh in 2015, saying Hezbollah expressed certain reservations to Franjieh about the meeting before it occurred, but agreed the Party would discuss the prospect of the Marada leader's presidency with Aoun, their declared candidate, if it appeared serious.
"Maybe he'd accept it, maybe he wouldn't. We just said we would have a discussion."
Nasrallah then turned to the most recent event, the surprise nomination of Aoun last Monday by his wartime foe, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea. Denying claims that Hezbollah was upset by the Christian leaders' reconciliation, Nasrallah described at as a "positive development" and said the choice between the two remaining candidates - Aoun, backed by Geagea and Hezbollah; and Franjieh, backed by Future and Amal, among others - could only be favorable to March 8.
"Within March 14, one essential member supports Aoun, while another essential member supports Franjieh. Is this a loss for us, or a gain?" he asked, smiling. "The president will not be from March 14, but from March 8. The disagreement is only over the person."
In his concluding remarks, Nasrallah rejected allegations - reported by NOW earlier this week - that Hezbollah does not truly seek Aoun's successful nomination, but rather favors the vacuum caused by the stalemate between the General and Franjieh.
"If there was a guarantee that a session would be convened to elect General Aoun tomorrow, we would go down to parliament and vote for Aoun - with a package [deal] or without one."