(DETROIT) — Lebanese Forces MP Shant Chinchinian on Saturday called for immediate presidential elections in Lebanon during keynote remarks at the Lebanese Forces Michigan Chapter twentieth annual banquet in Detroit.
Chinchinian, who is visiting the United States for his second time, said the political situation in Lebanon would improve if a president is elected. He believes protest groups in Beirut should set fixed demands that urge leaders to stop boycotting presidential sessions.
“Our candidate is still Dr. Samir Geagea,” Chinchinian told Lebanese Examiner during an exclusive interview. “But we are open to discussion later on; we are not set on (Geagea) as an obstacle that makes him president, or nobody else.”
The Lebanese Forces banquet drew about 250 people, mostly supporters of the March 14 Alliance, which is largely comprised of leaders from the Future Movement, Lebanese Forces, and Kataeb Party.
Christian Nasr, secretary general of the Lebanese Forces in North America, also traveled to Detroit for the banquet, which was held at the hall of Life Application Ministries Church – the former location of St. Sharbel Maronite Catholic Church.
Chinchinian appeared on Sunday in Sterling Heights at Bemis Junior High School, the temporary location of St. Sharbel Church, for a mass to “honor and remember Lebanese Forces martyrs.”
Chinchinian, who is from Zahle, is a graduate of the University of Bradford in the United Kingdom, where he studied international policy and security, according to his CV.
Zahle is home to one of the largest populations of Syrian refugees in the world — an issue that Chinchinian said requires international intervention.
“For a small country like Lebanon, it was very difficult to receive this number of refugees,” he said. “(The Lebanese Forces) demanded that refugee camps should be set up within Syria.”
Chinchinian said during the Lebanese Civil War, only a small percentage of Lebanese citizens became refugees. He believes “internal displacement” is a better solution.
“I think the best solution for everybody is to prepare safe zones within Syria, non-military zones, that could house the refugees,” he added.
These concerns add a “burden” on the Lebanese economy and make electricity, water, and waste removal even more difficult, he believes. The matter of garbage has prompted historic protests in Beirut over corruption and political dysfunction.
Secular protest groups have prompted international attention and increased public anger over the garbage crisis — concerns that Chinchinian said are “rightful.”
“The protests started with rightful demands,” Chinchinian said. “Almost all the Lebanese agree with these demands — from electricity, to water, and mainly the garbage situation that is unbearable.”
However, he added that protesters should remain peaceful and defy violence committed by hostile crowds. Protesters argue that police brutality, not the protest groups, has naturally led to escalated violence.
“It’s easy to regret something and to put the blame on somebody else,” he said. “It’s in the duty of the groups that are demonstrating to control the demonstration and to have clear and limited goals.”
Chinchinian added that he met with the environmental parliamentary committee in Lebanon prior to his trip to Detroit. He believes the plan proposed under the direction of Agriculture Minister Akram Shehayeb is viable.
The plan – announced after six hours of deliberation between the Lebanese cabinet – aims to decentralize waste management by giving municipalities the responsibility.
“This is the only plan; there are no other solutions,” he said. “I think the municipalities will accept it in the end.”