Lebanon's powerful armed Hezbollah group will back Christian politician Suleiman Frangieh to be the country's president, the group's leader Hassan Nasrallah said on Monday, a move that gives him important backing but does not secure his election.
Lebanon in political crisis
Lebanon has had no head of state since former president Michel Aoun's term ended at the end of October, deepening institutional paralysis in a country where one of the world's-worst economic crises has been festering for years.
“The natural candidate we support in the presidential elections is (former) minister Suleiman Frangieh.”Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah
"The natural candidate we support in the presidential elections is (former) minister Suleiman Frangieh," Nasrallah said.
Frangieh, 56, is heir to an old Lebanese Christian political dynasty and a friend of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
His grandfather, of the same name, served as president from 1970 into Lebanon's 1975-90 civil war.
Frangieh has the support of House Speaker Nabih Berri's Amal Movement party but still falls short of the 65 votes required for him to be elected.
A close Hezbollah ally, he appeared close to becoming president in 2016, but Hezbollah's support went to Aoun - another of its Christian allies who now have a 20-member bloc in parliament but have opposed Frangieh's election.
Frangieh's candidacy is also opposed by the Lebanese Forces party led by Christian politician Samir Geagea.
Frangieh's parents and sister were killed by the Lebanese Forces militia in 1978 at their home in the north of the country.
Frangieh held Geagea - an LF commander at the time - responsible for the raid. Geagea has denied taking part, saying he was wounded before reaching the house.
In 2018, the Maronite patriarch oversaw reconciliation between the two.