FPM chief says it is up to the bloc members to cast a blanc ballot or vote for Berri’s relection

Gebran Bassil
Gebran Bassil

Free Patriotic Movement chief MP Gebran Bassil announced Tuesday  after the bloc’s weekly meeting that it is up to the bloc members to cast a blanc ballot or vote for  Speaker  Nabih Berri’s reelection during Wednesday’s  election session of the news speaker .

“We have decided to allow the members of our parliamentary  bloc  to vote in the way they see appropriate – whether they choose to cast blank ballots or vote for Speaker Berri,” Bassil announced after the bloc’s weekly meeting.

Citing the Lebanese Forces’ decision to cast blank ballots, Bassil explained that should the FPM endorse the same stance, it would give the impression that “the vast majority of Christians is rejecting this nomination” of Berri.

“We would be facing a scenario of major Christian rejection of a major Shiite choice and this cannot be overlooked. The FPM has always paid prices to prevent the isolation of any sect and we are the guardians of the (1943) National Pact” of confessional coexistence, Bassil added.

The FPM chief also confirmed support for the nomination of Prime Minister Saad Hariri for the premiership and MP Elie al-Ferzli for the deputy speaker post.

Relations between Berri and Bassil have been strained ever since Michel Aoun was elected as president

Berri lambasted the Free Patriotic Movement chief  during an electoral campaign speech over last month , calling him a “psychopath who is suffering from “megalomania.” Berri’s  remarks   came in response to Bassil’s implicit accusations against the speaker of exercising “political dominance” over the majority Christian town of Jezzine.

The outburst of the Berri-Bassil feud into the open came as Lebanon was  gearing up to hold parliamentary elections

Berri’s unprecedented remarks  also  came three months after the FPM leader was shown in a video calling the speaker a “thug,” a remark that triggered street protests by the speaker’s supporters.

The FPM-Amal tension, which has its roots in Berri’s staunch opposition Aoun’s  ( Bassil’s father-in-law) election   as president, is expected to go on as the two sides sharply disagree on tackling key issues, such as the chronic electricity problem.

Speaking at the FPM rally in Jezzine district  Bassil indirectly accused the Amal Movement of involvement in corruption.

“They support corruption and want it to remain in its place. Corruption does not coexist with resistance and liberation, and Israel is waiting for the opportunity to weaken our society as a result of corruption.” Bassil said .

In another speech in Jezzine last month  Bassil said the Amal Movement had neglected the region’s development from 1990 to 2008.

“We will not accept someone laying their hand on any of the seats in Jezzine,” Bassil said. Hezbollah and Amal are backing a rival electoral list against the FPM’s list in Jezzine.

“Jezzine’s land was freed from Israeli occupation, but those who practiced political dominance on a Parliament seat [were also] occupying it, and [it was our] job to free [those seats],” he added.

The interesting point here is that both  FPM and Berri are close allies of the Iranian backed Hezbollah militant group and Hezbollah declared victory after the election results  because of the number of seats gained by Amal and FPM .

Lebanese Forces’ leader Samir Geagea announced on Monday that the  MPs of the LebaneseForces’ Strong Republic bloc will not vote for Nabih Berri  as the new parliament Speaker and will instead cast blankballots in the vote.

The  Lebanese Forces party was the top winner in the election. It almost doubled its  number of seats from 8 to 15