Geagea to seek partnership with Hezbollah if elected president

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In an interview with As-Safir, head of the Lebanese Forces Party Samir Geagea says that, if elected president, he would propose a partnership with Hezbollah and work to ensure that the army is the only party with weapons.

The head of the Lebanese Forces Party, Samir Geagea, insists that his candidacy for the presidency is a "decision [taken] in utmost seriousness." At the same time, however, he admits that his journey to the Baabda (Presidential) Palace would be difficult, noting, "I am very aware of this [difficulty], but in politics nothing is impossible."

If Geagea has "convinced" himself that he possesses the sufficient qualifications and support to run for president, then all he has left to do is persuade his allies in the March 14 coalition to back him, and then persuade his opponents in the March 8 coalition to secure a quorum and fill the shortage in the number of votes needed to win.

Geagea told As-Safir that the principle of him entering the presidential battle is "necessary in and of itself, and is equivalent in importance to reaching the presidency." He noted that, through his candidacy, he wanted to "restore order to this vital election, and establish new traditions in the way it is approached. [The electoral process] should not remain a prisoner to closed meetings, embassies, deals and secret remarks, but should be subject to public opinion. [The public] should have influence when it comes to choosing their representatives, depending on the extent of their conviction in this or that candidate." He said he would announce his electoral platform in a few days.

Geagea explained that he is in communication with his allies to discuss the opportunities before him, as a prelude to determining the March 14 forces' final position on his candidacy. "The Future Movement's decision depends on the conviction they will reach regarding the path my candidacy will take, and I have a feeling that the atmosphere will be positive," he said.

Geagea denied that his move was intended to embarrass former Prime Minister Saad Hariri and cut off options for other figures within March 14 that have presidential ambitions. "Had I not conducted at least a minimum of prior consultations with my allies, and were I not convinced that I was at least half way there to gaining their support, I would not have [decided] to run for presidency of the republic," he said.

The head of the Lebanese Forces Party said that the problem of achieving a quorum for the election session does not exist this time, because everyone has confirmed that they reject allowing for a vacuum or boycotting the session. "This was reflected in the discussions carried out [at the Maronite Patriarchate] in Bkerke between the main Christian parties, which agreed on the necessity of attending [the session to elect a president] and that running in elections and seeking to win is everyone's right. Then the electoral process should be left to take its natural course, knowing that I still maintain the position that the quorum should be half [the MPs] plus one."

Geagea warned that those who are boycotting the session to elect a president will pay a heavy price, and will lose both politically and in popular support. "The Lebanese in general, and the Christians and Bkerke in particular, will not stand idly by at the prospect of a vacuum. And I would advise the March 8 coalition not to push things in this direction, because it would be the biggest loser," he said. "The Christians in this coalition are asked not to boycott [the session to elect a president], while of course retaining freedom of choice and the ballot."

"The idea that 'a vacuum is better than a weak president' should automatically be discarded now that March 14 has a strong candidate — which is myself, in principle — and the March 8 team has a strong candidate, Gen. Michel Aoun, although at this point [his candidacy is not official]," Geagea said. "Therefore there is no longer a reason to boycott, and everyone should assume their responsibilities and participate in the session to elect a president."

Geagea elaborated on his calculations: "If the session is convened according to the two-thirds quorum, it will be difficult in the first round for any candidate to obtain the majority required. However, in the second session, a win requires half [of the MPs] plus one [65 votes]. I think that I have a chance to secure this number, especially since I'll begin with 59 votes that belong to the March 14 MPs. This means that I will only have six votes remaining, and in principle this is not impossible to obtain."

Geagea said, "The balance of political forces is currently in the interest of the March 14 forces. Just as they won the parliamentary elections in 2009, they can win the presidential election in 2014, on the condition that they take the appropriate option and persist with it until the end."

The head of the Lebanese Forces Party said if he is elected president, he will propose to Hezbollah "a partnership for building an active state that bears the sole responsibility for the defense of all its citizens, on the basis that the Lebanese army is the only party with weapons. It is worth noting that the Shiites themselves are the ones most harmed by the existing reality."

Geagea confirmed that if he becomes president, he will maintain the current combat doctrine of the Lebanese army, "which classifies Israel as an enemy. However, the military institution alone will be the one concerned with applying [this doctrine]."

“The army is capable of replacing Hezbollah, with its current abilities, since its elite forces — which include the Special Forces unit, the Strike Force, the Airborne Regiments and the Commandos — can deploy and work as required according to the specificity of the conflict with Israel. Hezbollah could also help by teaching the military institution the tactics it has acquired,” he added.

Found in: sectarian politics, samir geagea, politics, political blocs, military, lebanon, hezbollah
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