Lebanon News

Geagea confident of LF win in parliamentary elections

File - LF leader Samir Geagea speaks in Maarab, Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir))

BEIRUT: Lebanese Forces (LF) chief Samir Geagea Sunday voiced confidence in a large win for his party in the 2018 Parliamentary elections, and said that electoral alliances have not been finalized, the National News Agency reported.

“The map of electoral alliances has not been plotted yet,” Geagea was quoted as saying by the NNA in an interview with German News Agency, Deutsche Presse-Agentur.

Parliament endorsed a new electoral law on Jun. 15, dividing Lebanon into 15 electoral constituencies based on proportionality.

Candidate lists will include members of diverse religious and political backgrounds, forcing parties to form electoral alliances.

“They [alliances] will ultimately be governed by the interests of LF across the electoral constituencies,” Geagea said.

“We are open to everybody, whether [they are] our traditional allies in Future Movement, our new friends in Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), or others.”

In 2016, Future and FPM ended a wartime rivalry with a historical agreement that paved the way for the election of then-FPM leader President Michel Aoun.

Future’s head, Prime Minister Saad Hariri, has repeatedly stressed the need for a robust relationship with LF.

However, Geagea said LF is “still studying” and evaluating the issue of alliances across the electoral constituencies and before reaching a final decision.

The electoral law divides the country into 27 sub-districts with the 128 MPs divided among them.

Voters will be eligible to a preferential vote for a single candidate, a demand initially proposed by FPM leader, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, to ensure adequate representation of Christians in the Parliament.

Geagea criticized those who oppose the new electoral law as concentrating the preservation of the balance of power to current political figures.

Kataeb Party officials have long decried the current proportional formula of the electoral law saying it “distorts” proportionality and proper representation.

Geagea said the opposition “is biased and that the criticism is a cover-up for personal interests.”

Geagea further praised the electoral law saying it “ensures new blood is pumped in the political life.”

“It allows any citizen who is popular enough to run for the Parliament, and potentially win, without anybody’s support or assistance,” Geagea continued.

Even individual candidates will be able to win seats if they gather a sufficient number of preferential votes.

“The law will not be unjust to parties that are greatly popular. It will subjectively represent [support] on the ground [in the Parliament],” Geagea said. “I expect this will be the case with us in LF. Our real size will appear in the coming elections.”

Geagea expressed content with the enhancement of Christian representation in the Parliament. He added that the new law was “the best possible representation for all sects and parties.”

Geagea warned “the vision of political parties for the elections should not be restricted to Parliament and Cabinet seats." Rather, parties should address the concerns of citizens, such as the electricity crisis.

Lebanon held its last parliamentary election in 2009. Parliamentary terms were extended twice in 2013 and 2014 over security concerns.

The elections, which were originally due to be held between spring and summer of 2017, were delayed until 2018 to allow for preparations for the election process.

Geagea also criticized Hezbollah’s accusation that Saudi Arabia and a number of Gulf countries are preparing to broker a reconciliation deal with Israel, sacrificing the rights of the Palestinian people, and condemned Nasrallah’s accusation that the Arab coalition allowed Israeli warplanes to strike targets in Yemen.

“All means of reconnaissance in this world have been unable to spot Israeli strikes to Yemen except for Sayyed [Hasan] Nasrallah,” Geagea said.

Geagea further critiqued Nasrallah’s criticism of ainst Saudi Arabia.

“Since when does Saudi Arabia need a certificate of evaluation from anybody on its stances towards the Palestinian cause and Pan-Arabism in general?” Geagea asked, adding that “Saudi Arabian stances are known to everybody” and there is no need to discuss this issue further.

Geagea also denounced Hezbollah’s affiliation with the Iranian regime.

“Hezbollah’s allegations are part of its regional considerations and endeavors to serve the project of establishing the caliphate of Wilayat al-Faqih (the cleric’s rule) in the Middle East,” Geagea said. “Unfortunately, the party [Hezbollah] has totally forgotten Lebanese interests and priorities.”

Hezbollah has long expressed its religious affiliation with Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader. In 2016, the party leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah publicly announced for the first time that Iran funds Hezbollah.

“He [Nasrallah] forgot that there are multiple common interests for Lebanon with Gulf countries,” Geagea said. “That is not to forget GCC investments in Lebanon, in addition to the numerous Lebanese who live and work there.”

Geagea also stressed that his party will deliberate Hezbollah’s stances against the GCC countries with President Aoun, Prime Minister Hariri and the Cabinet, although “the government will not take a decisive stance on that matter,” over fears of “destabilizing” the country.

Both Hezbollah and LF have representatives in the Cabinet.

“We wish that our country and its economy would not be influenced by the accusations of a party that is only speaking on its behalf and not in the name of the Lebanese state,” Geagea continued.

He also renewed his opposition towards recruiting “Arab and Muslim volunteers if Israel wages a new war on Lebanon.”

Nasrallah, in a Jun. 23 speech, warned Israel that any attack on Lebanon or Syria would trigger intervention by “hundreds of thousands” of Arab and Muslim fighters to join the battle against the Israel.

“Such a call is an aggression against the legitimacy of the Lebanese state and government. It is a confiscation of its right to [take] such strategic decisions,” Geagea said.

“Regardless of Hezbollah’s motives behind calling in foreign recruits to join the fight against Israel, the matter is absolutely rejected.” Geagea continued.

Several politicians and analysts have speculated Nasrallah might just be intimidating Israeli leaders to deter their threat. Others have said Hezbollah is attempting to impose new rules of engagement in any potential wide-scale regional conflict.

Despite relative calm since 2006, following a 34-day war on Lebanon ending with a UN-brokered ceasefire, fears of a new war have been recently exacerbated in view of a tenser rhetoric between Israel and Hezbollah.

As for reports of Israeli warnings to Iran against establishing arms factories for Hezbollah in Lebanon, Geagea said “Israel knows the party [Hezbollah] functions in complete harmony with Iranian, and not Lebanese, interests and stances.” “It [Israel has addressed whoever is concerned with Hezbollah [Iran].”

Geagea also said that such factories are certainly not acceptable to be built in Lebanon, however, he said he has no information if the Israeli allegations are true.

 

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