It appears that the battle for the presidential election has shifted from Beirut to the French capital .
Two of the centrist leaders are already in Paris:
Former President Michel Suleiman met on Thursday with French President Francois Hollande at the Elysee Palace in Paris according to media reports and he also met with Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat on Wednesday over the presidential issue.
Friday will witness the long awaited meeting between Jumblatt and
former PM and Future Movement leader Saad Hariri . This will be the first between the two leaders in over one year, according to reports
Health Minister Wael Abou Faour who accompanied Jumblatt to the French capital has been preparing for this meeting . Last week he went to the Moroccan city of Casablanca where he met with Hariri as part of the preparation for Friday’s meeting.
Jumblatt is expected to focus his discussions on the presidential election and will go over a list of possible consensus candidates. According to well informed sources he vowed not to return to Lebanon without securing a deal with hariri on a possible candidate .
Jumblatt said last week that he will neither support Free Patriotic Movement chief MP Michel Aoun nor Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea.
The Lebanese parliament failed again for the seventh time in a row to hold a session to elect the country’s new president to replace Suleiman whose term ended on May 25.
After Geagea secured 48 votes last April 23, the Hezbollah led March 8 alliance including Aoun and Suleiman Franjieh walked out from the parliament to make sure there was no quorum to elect a president. They continued their boycott of the parliament during the 6 other sessions that followed .
Aoun has not announced his candidacy but he aspires to become a consensual nominee and has reportedly been waiting for Hariri to endorse him , but so far the Future Movement leader along with his March 14 allies is sticking with Geagea.
On Thursday Jumblatt derided the endorsement of Aoun for presidency by the embattled Syrian president Basher al Assad by asserting that this is not something to be proud of:
“It is not an honor for anyone to receive Bashar’s support.” Jumblatt told the Egyptian daily al-Ahram stressing this is a Lebanese issue and Assad has no influence on the outcome.
“We will have the final word in this matter,” Jumblatt who wields a critical swing vote in Lebanon parliament said.
Jumblatt reiterated his support for the nomination of his parliamentary bloc member MP Henri Helou for the presidency, stressing that he is a moderate when compared to other nominees and will not withdraw his nomination.
“We will not withdraw Helou’s nomination for the sake of others regardless of what agreements are made. This is democracy.” Jumblatt told the daily.
Suleiman who left the office last May 24 is also in Paris to attend the one-day conference aimed at the establishment of a special fund to help Lebanon cope with the huge influx of Syrian refugees and also to allocate military aid to the Lebanese Army, according to media reports.
Suleiman, a former army chief was able to secure last year a 3 billion Dollar grant from the Saudi Arabian king Abdullah to the Lebanese army.