The Lebanese Forces Party announced on Friday that it has nominated its leader Samir Geagea to stand for president when the Lebanese parliament selects a new head of state.
According to the Daily Star, Lebanese Forces MP George Adwan said that the body had "unanimously agreed" to nominate Geagea after a party meeting. The announcement came ahead of the conclusion of President Michel Suleiman's term on 25 May. The parliament will convene between 25 March and 15 May to choose a new president.
Geagea, 62, became leader of the conservative Christian party in 1986, and was a key part of the 14 March Coalition against the Hezbollah-led 8 March Alliance.
After serving 11 years in prison for crimes committed during the country's civil war, which ended in 1990, the leader of the Lebanese militia was granted an amnesty by parliament in 2005.
Geagea said that he is the "natural candidate" for the presidency as the head of the "most popular party among Christians according to statistics" during an interview with Al-Arabiya last month. He added that he is waiting for the "most opportune moment" to announce his candidacy.
Geagea has always said he would push for the withdrawal of Hezbollah troops from war-torn Syria if elected as president.
In a press conference last year, Al-Arabiya quoted him as saying that Hezbollah's leader Hassan Nasrallah can support Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad as he wishes, but does not have the right to hide the crimes that Al-Assad's forces have committed against the Syrian people.
“Hezbollah is fighting [in Syria] in order to protect its position and that of Iran in the region, not to protect the Shias", he said, claiming that Hezbollah's sustained intervention in Syria will lead to the destruction of Lebanon.
He has also accused the Shia movement of seeking to turn Lebanon into a sectarian state.
Mohamed Fneish, Lebanon's State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, acknowledged Geagea's right to run for presidency, Egypt's state-run news agency MENA reported Friday.
Hezbollah's representative in the cabinet added however that Geagea represents "another political orientation and alliance."
"We are committed to our alliances and what we agree upon with our allies; we will never change or get in disagreement with them," he said in a press statement.
Ghazi Youssef, an MP and member of the Future movement, said the movement won’t support the Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun, a potential presidential candidate and current Hezbollah ally.
Youssef argued that the disagreement over Hezbollah’s weapons and intervention in Syria led to the decision, stressing that 14 March will "go to the polls with only one candidate among its ranks,” hinting that Geagea might be such candidate.
"A strong president should insist on the sovereignty of Lebanon and its institutions; Geagea has such criteria; if the current phase requires his presence, then let it be," he said.
Youssef rejected any constitutional amendments or extensions of the current president's term. Ali Hamada, member of the Future's politburo, claimed that there is no "serious talk" about the presidential elections so far.
"The decision of Geagea to enter the electoral race is perfect, but no real discussions had taken place on the issue inside the 14 March coalition,” he said.
The Future movement, under the leadership of Sunni leader and son of former president Rafik Hariri, Saad Hariri, is regarded as the main heavy-weight group within the 14 March coalition.