Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea said he is prepared to withdraw his presidential bid if his March 14 alliance puts forward a “consensus” candidate with a similar platform and objectives.
In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat conducted after Lebanese lawmakers failed for the third time to choose a successor to outgoing Lebanese President Michel Suleiman, Geagea said he did not expect a new president to be chosen at the next parliamentary session scheduled for May 15.
Geagea, who remains the March 14 alliance’s sole official presidential candidate, said he would be prepared to discuss withdrawing his candidacy in favor of another candidate. “I am ready to discuss the issue if the March 14 alliance names a consensus candidate with a platform similar to mine.”
He added: “[Kataeb (Phalangist) Party leader] Amine Gemayel and [Telecommunications Minister] Boutros Harb are well-respected names and their platforms are similar to mine. The issue is not personal for me; my candidacy has a specific goal, namely to serve [the March 14] vision.”
Geagea won 48 votes at the first parliamentary session on April 23 aimed at securing a new president. The next two parliamentary sessions failed to achieve a quorum after members of the Hezbollah-led March 8 alliance boycotted the vote. The next parliamentary session is set to be held on May 15, just 10 days before the end of Suleiman’s presidential term on May 25.
The Lebanese Forces leader dismissed warnings that the country was facing a “presidential vacuum” as an attempt on the part of Hezbollah to “intimidate Christians.” He said Hezbollah was seeking to pressure Lebanese MPs to back a March 8 candidate by raising fears that the only alternative would be a costly vacuum.
The post of president is traditionally held by a Maronite Christian with March 8’s presumptive presidential candidate, Michel Aoun, previously stating that he will only stand as a “consensus candidate.”
Geagea played down local media reports that the rival March 14 alliance and March 8 alliance could come to an agreement that would see Aoun as president and the return of Future Movement leader Saad Al-Hariri as prime minister. “Hariri’s return is not in Aoun’s hands; when [Hariri] decides to return, he will,” Geagea told Asharq Al-Awsat.
“The premiership is not a gift Aoun can give to Hariri,” he said.
Asked if he feared that Lebanon was heading towards a presidential vacuum, Geagea said: “A presidential vacuum would be better and more merciful than losing Lebanon forever . . . I prefer a few difficult days to handing Lebanon over to Hezbollah.”