Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Lebanese presidential elections campaign gained momentum Wednesday, with Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea announcing his electoral platform and growing rumors that Phalange (Kataeb) Party leader Amine Gemayel will announce his candidacy soon.
Lebanon’s labor minister, Sejaan Azzi, informed the Daily Star on Thursday that Gemayel will declare his presidential candidacy “by next week.” Both Geagea and Gemayel would be competing for the endorsement of the March 14 Alliance.
Also on Wednesday, parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri announced that the parliamentary session to elect a new president to succeed outgoing Lebanese President Michel Suleiman will take place on April 23. The two-month deadline to elect a new president set by the constitution began on March 25, with Suleiman’s six-year term in office officially drawing to a close on May 25.
As of Thursday morning, Geagea remained the sole Lebanese politician to have announced his presidential candidacy. He remains a controversial choice, with many in the March 14 Alliance calling for Gemayel or Telecommunications Minister Boutros Harb to run.
Azzi, the labor minister, denied that a Gemayel presidential bid would split the March 14 Alliance vote. “We will have diversity among candidates, and we might later reach some exchange of votes or a certain agreement to have a shared candidate. This is all part of the democratic process.”
“March 14 needs a candidate capable of attracting votes from the March 8 group; the votes of the March 14 lawmakers in parliament would not be enough to elect a new president. We need a president that can cross alliances in the country, not only within the March 14,” he said.
Geagea’s 32-point platform highlights the importance of central government authority, particularly in terms of the control of arms. Speaking to a press conference to mark the occasion, he said: “There is no country in the world that can accept an [external] party sharing in power or decision-making.”
“I will not accept the appropriation of the states decision-making by any party, whether during times of peace or war. The strength of the state is not just in the strength of its army, but also the strength of its decision-making and its popular support.”
Lebanon Future Movement MP Ahmed Fatfat announced that he would be backing Geagea on Wednesday, describing his presidential platform as “excellent.” He called on other presidential candidates to nominate themselves as soon as possible, telling Asharq Al-Awsat that this would “secure a significant development in Lebanese political life.”