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Myra Abdallah

A potential breakup

Will disagreement between Future Movement and Lebanese Forces caused by Hariri’s nominating Frangieh for president lead to a schism between the two allies?

Saad Hariri and Samir Geagea in Beirut in 2009. (AFP/Joseph Barrak)

Today, the 33rd parliamentary session set to elect a new president was postponed until 7 January, due to lack of quorum. Suleiman Frangieh, suggested after Future Movement head Saad Hariri’s initiative, was not elected as the new Lebanese president. But the controversy Frangieh’s candidature has created in the Lebanese political scene has not gotten any better, especially between the Future Movement and the Lebanese Forces.

 

The divergence between the parties is more obvious today than ever. After the parliament session, Ahmad Fatfat, Future Movement MP, said that Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea is still his party’s candidate as long as no consensual candidate is suggested. In return, Lebanese Forces MP Georges Adwan said Hariri’s initiative will not cause a clash between the two parties. Thus, the two parties are trying to maintain a common ground in order to spare Lebanon a dead-end political crisis. But their profound disagreement can’t be hidden anymore.

 

“It is obvious that the relationship is really bad,” said analyst Hazem Saghieh. “It’s bad because of the fragile composition of the March 14 coalition and its inability to overtake the prevailing sectarian compositions. In addition, Hariri’s behavior was very hasty, unpredictable and inconsiderate. It seems that he prioritized his personal over his relationship with his allies.”

 

It’s not the first time the two parties have disagreed. However, over the past 10 years they have always managed to reach better endings, resolve their issues and maintain their alliance — none of which are very obvious at present. “This time it is different,” says Saghieh. “It is obvious that this disagreement is a quantum leap regarding the post-Syrian crisis period. Currently, any Lebanese politician’s shift is directly related to the regional transformation. This is what’s causing the current disparity more serious.”

 

On the other hand, in line with Adwan and Fatfat’s statements, members from both parties NOW spoke to said that the relationship between the two parties will not suffer a complete rupture. Fatfat told NOW that both parties are holding tight to their strategic alliance and their continuous communication with all March 14 components. “Although the relationship was tense even before Hariri’s initiative because of several divergences, the constant communication between Future Movement and Lebanese Forces contributed in easing the tensions. We agreed that the alliance will never be affected even if we have different points of view,” he said. “In addition, as I said today, Samir Geagea is still our candidate even if, meanwhile, Hariri is trying to find a way out of the presidential deadlock by suggesting the name of another person, since it became obvious that Geagea’s candidature can’t lead anywhere.”

 

The popular bases of both parties are not on good terms lately, either. Last week, as a result of several clashes between Lebanese Forces and Future Movement supporters on social media, the administrations of both parties had to issue official statements asking their supporters not to attack the other party. “The popular base of March 14 knows how to hold their political leaders accountable at the right moment. The tension between the popular base and Hariri’s initiative, which I consider a healthy anger, happened because the initiative was seen as a coup against the principles according to which March 14 was created,” said a Lebanese Forces spokesperson who spoke on condition of anonymity. “However, regardless of all the tension we can see, the relationship between Lebanese Forces and Future Movement is excellent, very steady, and can never be extinguished.” He also said that the Lebanese Forces did not completely reject Frangieh’s nomination and is still in the process of negotiating his candidature with its allies.

 

The current position of both parties seems to be an attempt to restore a broken relationship and to save what is left of the March 14 coalition, especially given that a large number of Sunnis have recently tried to join the Lebanese Forces. A number of them were announced as members at a ceremony organized by the Christian party in Akkar last week.

 

Saghieh says that the parties are trying to “tinker with the broken image,” as they do every time they disagree and that this is not a concern for March 14 alone. He also says that what is happening today in Lebanon and region is a “reshuffling of the political map,” and that “the dualism of March 8 and March 14 no longer exists.” Instead, he says, “new equations might be set; an alliance between [Nabih] Berri, [Walid] Jumblatt, Hariri and Frangieh might be created.”

 

“Some people are seeing Frangieh’s nomination as a positive step since it indicates the loss of Bashar Assad in Syria,” he said. “If the loss results in getting Frangieh as a president in Lebanon, I wonder what his victory would have got us.”

 

Myra Abdallah tweets @myraabdallah

Saad Hariri and Samir Geagea in Beirut in 2009. (AFP/Joseph Barrak)

It is obvious that the relationship is really bad,” said analyst Hazem Saghieh. “It’s bad because of the fragile composition of the March 14 coalition and its inability to overtake the prevailing sectarian compositions.”