SULEIMAN, Michel

Commander-in-Chief of the Lebanese Army, General Michel Sulaiman has been nominated and approved by all the Lebanese political parties to succeed to Emile Lahoud as President of Lebanon.

Born on November 21, 1948 in the town of Amshit, in the north of Byblos in the region of Mount Lebanon, Michel Sulaiman is a career soldier and father of three children. He first studied Political and Administrative Sciences at the Lebanese University. Having graduated from the Military Academy in 1970, he then followes various formations in Belgium, France and the United States. He went on in his career in the army until being appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Army in 1998 by the outgoing President Emile Lahoud.

Despite this investiture dictated by Damascus, Michel Sulaiman has managed to keep the approval of the entire Lebanese people. He has indeed managed his high military office with much diplomacy. In this way it has keeped the neutrality and unity of the army at critical times such as the withdrawal of Syrian troops in 2005 and the clashes between Sunni pro-majority and Shiite pro-opposition at the beginning of 2007. Moreover, despite the limited means at its disposal, the army has taken positions throughout southern Lebanon, and has also defeated in September 2007 the terrorist group Fatah el-Islam who had taken the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr el Bared as hostage.

Therefore the army enjoys a good reputation and seems to be the only area where Lebanon keeps confessional unity. All the camps have therefore accepted the candidacy of General Sulaiman despite small objections that remain for each group.

The anti-Syrian majority could accuse him of being pro-Syria because on the one hand having received its function from Emile Lahoud, he also said on the other hand following the victory of Nahr el Bared that Fatah el Islam was not in the pay of Syria, as the group of 14 March claimed. Hezbollah meanwhile supported the candidacy of another general, Michel Aoun, but nevertheless ultimately supported the candidacy of Sulaiman. He actually had the intelligence of one day say about the party of Hassan Nasrallah: « We need them. »

For a commander-in-chief of the army to be directly appointed as president, an amendment of the constitution is necessary. The different trends have accepted this provision, but other requirements are still blocking the appointment of General Sulaiman to the Presidency.

On December 12, 2007, General François El Hajj was murdered. El Hajj had been approached to succeed Sulaiman at the command of the Lebanese army. This is the first attack that affects a high military, generally regarded as neutral. It has been interpreted as a warning in case of appointment of Michel Sulaiman to the Presidency.

Candidate of the consensus for now more than a month – he was appointed in late November 2007 – the appointment of General Sulaiman of the presidency has been postponed for the twelfth time.

On May 25 2008, Sleiman was elected with 118 votes at the Lebanese Parliament.