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First candidate says to contest Lebanon's presidential race

Source: Reuters - Fri, 4 Apr 2014 14:22 GMT
Author: Reuters
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BEIRUT, April 4 (Reuters) - Lebanese Christian politician Samir Geagea announced on Friday he will run for president in an election due next month, the first candidate to formally enter a race overshadowed by growing violence and months of political paralysis.

President Michel Suleiman's six-year term ends in late May. Parliament must approve his successor with a two-thirds majority.

The vice-chairman of Geagea's Lebanese Forces party, George Adwan, told party members the group's executive body "unanimously nominates party chief Samir Geagea for the Lebanese presidential election."

He said Lebanon had fallen into a "state of chaos and lawlessness."

Heavily influenced by the war in neighbouring Syria, and host to more than a million refugees, Lebanon has struggled to control a deterioration in security and an economic slowdown.

In February, Lebanon formed a new government, breaking a 10-month political deadlock during which a caretaker government with limited powers was in charge.

Many Lebanese hope that a working government and the election of a new president will bring stability and leadership.

But rivalries persist between the Hezbollah-dominated March 8 bloc and the March 14 alliance led by the mainly Sunni Muslim Future Party. Candidates for the presidential election are likely to struggle to win a two-thirds majority in parliament.

Hezbollah has sent fighters to help Syrian President Bashar al-Assad - of the minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam - battle rebels, mostly from the majority Sunni Muslim population, trying to overthrow him.

Bombs have targeted areas in Lebanon controlled by Hezbollah.

Under Lebanon's political system, which seeks to guarantee representation for its various sects and religions, the president must be a Maronite Christian, a community which is divided between March 8 and March 14 supporters.

Geagea, 61, is opposed to Assad and has condemned Hezbollah's military involvement in Syria. He spent 11 years in jail for political murders and other killings during Lebanon's civil war, the only warlord imprisoned after the conflict.

Other potential presidential candidates, including Michel Aoun, are close to Hezbollah. (Reporting by Oliver Holmes and Laila Bassam; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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