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LF’s Geagea backs Aoun
for Lebanon presidency

The move comes after Future Movement leader Saad Hariri moved to support Marada chief Suleiman Franjieh.

Geagea and Aoun. (AFP)

BEIRUT – Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea has dropped a political bombshell in Lebanon by backing his long-time rival Free Patriotic Movement head MP Michel Aoun for the presidency, the latest twist in the country’s bitterly divided political arena.

 

"I declare, after a thorough review among the LF, the nomination of Aoun for the presidency," Geagea announced in a Monday night press conference alongside his former war-time foe.

 

The LF chief called on his March 14 coalition allies as well as independent politicians to support Aoun for the presidency, a post vacant since May 2014.

 

"We demand a fair electoral law," Geagea added, in reference to long-standing Christian demands for a new formula to elect parliamentarians. Lebanon's legislature had to extend its term once again in November 2014 following a failure to agree on a new law to govern elections.

 

Aoun, in turn, hailed Geagea, saying his party would "not forget" what the LF leader had "presented to Lebanon."

 

The FPM chief aslo described the summit in Geagea's Maarab residence in northern Lebanon as "historic."

 

Geagea’s move comes only weeks after his close March 14 alliance ally, Future Movement leader MP Saad Hariri, unofficially threw his support behind Suleiman Franjieh’s candidacy for the presidency.

 

Hariri had previously supported Geagea's candidacy for the presidency, but the LF leader failed to achieve the necessary majority in an April 2014 vote in the parliament, which has since failed to meet to vote for a new president amid the country's deep political impasse. 

 

Geagea and Aoun's rival Franjieh, the head of the Marada Movement and a close friend of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, is one the four main Christian political leaders endorsed in a March 2014 meeting at the Maronite church’s seat in Bkirki as the sect’s top candidates for the presidency.

 

However, Hariri’s drive to elect Franjieh stalled in mid-December after strong opposition from the LF, FPM and Kataeb parties, the three major Maronite parties in Lebanon alongside the Marada Movement.

 

Franjieh late Monday night reitarated that he was keeping up his run for the presidency, following a meeting with Maronite Patriatch Bechara Boutros al-Rai.

 

Hezbollah has publicly stressed that its top candidate for the presidency was Aoun, while the other main party in the March 8 coalition, Amal Movement, has indicated it was happy with Franjieh’s candidacy.

 

Geagea’s nomination of Aoun comes amid chilly ties between the LF and Future Movement, with the Christian leader reportedly not answering Hariri’s calls in December while both party’s partisans traded accusations against each other on social media.

 

Nevertheless, both sides have insisted their alliance remains, one of the pillars of the March 14 coalition, remains strong.

 

Just as Geagea has moved politically from the Future Movement, his party has had a rapprochement with the FPM. In June 2015, both Christian factions finalized a “Declaration of Intent” that underscored their closer ties.

 

The two parties put the rapprochement to action in November 2015, when they threatened to boycott a crunch legislative session, extracting concessions from Future and Amal on granting nationality to people of Lebanese descent and transferring funds to municipalities.

LF leader Samir Geagea and FPM chief Michel Aoun. (AFP)

LF media director Melhem Riachy revealed Monday afternoon that Geagea was set to make the announcement during an evening press conference.

  • Hanibaal-Atheos

    THIS PROVES SAAD HARIRI IS A FAILURE. GENETIC INHERITANCE OF POLITICAL POWER FROM A FORMER FAILURE, RAFIK, IS GUARANTEED FAILURE. For one, Saad Hariri is a coward hiding abroad who is afraid to come live his people's trying times. What kind of leadership is this? True leaders may be imprisoned or sent into exile, but to choose to live outside your own country because you are afraid, all the while pretending to be a leader, is pure filth. The FPM-LF rapprochement has dismembered the fake March 14 alliance of former warlords, Syrian collaborators, and feudal bosses. The question now: Will Aoun in turn ditch his Hezbollah allies? I think yes, but it will take him some time.

    January 18, 2016

  • Beiruti

    I agree the M14-M8 alignment is over. It has been over since January 26, 2011 when Jumblatt jumped ship and the Hariri government fell. This only makes things more formalized. The real shift here is not Geagea to Aoun, that is local, it is the US shift from KSA to a "middle ground" between Iran and KSA and the resultant closer relations between the US and Iran. Before when the policy was confrontation between the US and Iran, players like Geagea lined against Iran and their proxies in Lebanon, Hezbollah and Aoun. But internationally the context of the competition has changed from confrontation to a period of cooperation. More is to be gained by ending confrontation with local Iranian proxies. So Geagea makes this move. It is smart. It follows the lead of the international backers of the LF in the West. It is leaving Lebanese Sunnis in the breach. As Hanibaal says, their titular leader, Saad Hariri doesn't even come to the country. They wanted to move to the LF since Geagea took a principled stand against the candidacy of Frangieh for President which Hariri pushed, but now Geagea has moved to Aoun, who is also anathema to Lebanese Sunni. So, where are they to go? Hopefully not to the streets.

    January 19, 2016

  • Hanibaal-Atheos

    The stars were aligned for Geagea... the ingredients for a perfect storm. 1- As in the past, the Americans tell him what to do, and they told him it is ok now to deal with Aoun (because of the Iran rapprochement). 2- He was pissed at Hariri's bypassing him for Frangieh. 3- He knows that Aoun is on his death bed, almost, and that he may not even complete a term if elected. 4- As a result, he will inherit some of Aoun's popularity when Aoun is gone. 5- His move may even force the inevitable divorce between Aoun and Hezbollah. But in general, the re-alignment of the Christian camp was expected at some point. The question now is how will the Aoun-Hezbollah "understanding" become the more natural "misunderstanding" between these odd bedfellows. I predict that if Aoun makes it to Baabda, I give him a couple of years before he confronts Hezbollah on the ground.

    January 22, 2016