Beirut and London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Samir Geagea, the head of the Lebanese Forces Party, publicly announced his intention to run for the presidency on Friday, with many analysts believing that the veteran Maronite politician has a strong chance of succeeding Michel Suleiman as Lebanon’s next head of state.
In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, Geagea said: “This [decision] is not out of greed for a position in power or anything like that. In the place where we find ourselves now, we need radical change, not tinkering.”
Geagea described himself as a “natural candidate” for Lebanon’s Maronite community, adding that he will announce his political program in two weeks’ time. The senior March 14 Alliance figure has never before run for the presidency, but said that he thought that the time was finally right to seek the post.
Commenting on the sectarian violence in Tripoli, Geagea told Asharq Al-Awsat: “What happened is that Hezbollah has gotten preoccupied with Syria, and I believe that the Sunnis in Lebanon are moving more and more towards fundamentalism. The only way out of the current situation is with the help of moderate Sunni Islam.”
He also touched on the recent security crackdown in Tripoli, which is suffering from extreme sectarian violence influenced by the three-year-long Syrian conflict, saying it is just one issue that Lebanon’s political leadership needs to address. “However, this [security operation] will not have an effect on the overall fate of the country, which is bleeding bit by bit. We now need radical solutions and change, otherwise the Lebanese people will unfortunately face a lot of suffering.”
The Maronite leader explicitly pointed the finger of blame at the armed wing of Hezbollah for much of the unrest and violence in the country. “Hezbollah does not want the state to get a grip anywhere. The more explosive a situation is, the better it is for Hezbollah,” he said of the group, which is one of the main parties in the March 8 alliance.
Along with Future Movement leader and former prime minister Saad Hariri and Kataeb Party leader and former president Amine Gemayel, Geagea is considered one of the leading figures of the March 14 alliance.
He assumed leadership of the Lebanese Forces in 1986, during the civil war, but in 1994 was given four death sentences that were commuted to life in prison for order a series of political assassinations during the war, in what many consider was a politically motivated trial by a pro-Syrian government over his opposition to the Syrian occupation of Lebanon. He was released in 2005 after the new pro-Cedar Revolution and anti-Syrian government granted him amnesty.
Thaer Abbas contributed reporting from Beirut.
A full interview with Samir Geagea will be published by Asharq Al-Awsat English in the coming days.