The head of the Lebanese Forces Samir Geagea stressed that the opposition is very serious in its support of the candidacy of former Finance Minister Jihad Azour, who is also backed by the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM). However, Geagea warned the FPM against any backpedaling, “which would be costly.”

In an interview with the Hala London channel, Geagea explained the strategy behind backing Jihad Azour for the presidency. Azour is a former Finance Minister and present Director of the Middle East and Central Asia Department of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). He is backed by the opposition and independent MP’s close to the March 14 movement.

Geagea also made it clear that this agreement with the FPM is a one-off.

He stressed that the opposition was keen to “break the deadlock and prevent the Amal-Hezbollah duo from imposing their candidate as head of State.”

The opposition opted for Azour “because he could rally several parties around his candidacy. We didn’t just want a candidate with specific skillsmany people have skills. What we wanted was a candidate who both had these skills and whom we could elevate as head of state,” Geagea explained. “Minister Jihad Azour’s candidacy is very serious. It is not a maneuver, as the Shiite duo is trying to make people believe,” he continued, rejecting criticism levelled by Azour’s detractors at his management of state finances. “When an institution such as the IMF appoints people to high-responsibility positions, it scrutinizes their pasts, their track records. I very much doubt that someone involved in corruption or considered bad would have been selected,” he said, emphasizing that this was one of the factors that he thought played in the former minister’s favor.

Regarding the agreement with the FPM, Geagea explained that it was important for the opposition to achieve this “because the Moumanaa axis (Amal-Hezbollah) could have reached an agreement with Gebran Bassil at any time. We had to take the lead,” he said, revealing that contacts with FPM began two months ago. “We did not trust them until they had taken a clear-cut public position. We will however remain vigilant until the very end, keeping past experience in mind,” added the LF leader, alluding to the Meerab agreement with the FPM which Gebran Bassil turned against.

Geagea’s speech revealed a sense of mistrust with the head of FPM. “A U-turn on his part will be costly,” warned Geagea, ruling out a broader agreement with Bassil due to his “unchanged speech and the experience of the last ten years.”

Among other things, Geagea referred to the FPM leader’s speech to his supporters in Jbeil on Tuesday. “He paid a vibrant tribute to the Resistance. We were the first resistance fighters, but our resistance operates within the State and is nothing like Bassil’s,” he said. On the subject of the June 14 election session, the LF leader said he feared the opposing camp would create a quorum failure in the first round. “If they do, the Moumanaa’s message will be clear: our candidate, or no president.”

In this context, he said he did not rule out the possibility that the 12th parliamentary electoral session “could be worse than the previous ones,” due to the risk of a lack of quorum.

Samir Geagea sharply criticized Hezbollah, “which spends its time stigmatizing its opponents, pointing the finger at them through embassy agents, while imploring France for the past three months to intervene with Saudi Arabia, so that the latter would support Sleiman Frangieh’s candidacy.”

In his view, the French, who until now had been in favor of Frangieh, have taken back their support of the latter since the visit of the Maronite Patriarch Bechara Raï to Paris and the announcement of a wider agreement around Jihad Azour.

Geagea also negated the Amal-Hezbollah duo argument that Azour’s election would be contrary to the essence of the National Pact, explaining that Muslim deputies’ support for the former minister was sufficient to give legitimacy to the election.

If the deadlock persists, Geagea believes that “lessons will have to be learned and a different formula will have to be devised” for the Lebanese State, arguing in favor of greater decentralization.