Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Two General Michels One President

Aoun after the 2005 election gained 70% of the Christian vote and subsequently feels that he has the right to be President. However, the President is not elected by the popular vote the Parliament elects the President. Or in the case of President Sleiman the big men of Lebanon are flown off to Doha and finally agree, after nearly going to war, that the head of the army General Michel Sleiman will be the next President. In the Doha agreement Sleiman was given a security portfolio and was given three ministers: the Defense Minister (Elias Murr), Interior Ministry (Ziad Baroud) and a Minister without portfolio (Yousef Taqla). After these elections Sleiman is likely to increase the number of direct supporters in the parliament as the number of 'independents' are most likely going to increase thus give Sleiman more power. It is likely then after these elections that Sleiman will gain more ministerial apponinments, maybe as many as seven, after these elections and will see Sleiman in a more political role rather than a security role.

This of course does not please Aoun and what has irked Aoun especially is that many of the 'indpendent' candidates are in what he sees as 'his' districts. Talking to an FPM supporter he posed the question 'why is it that in Jbeil, Metn and Kesrouan there are all these 'independents'? Why are there no independents running in Bcharre for instance?'

Aoun himself in a recent speech made clear how he felt about the issue of 'independents':

"The purpose behind this action is to dismantle the majority through efforts to infiltrate the lists of the Change and Reform bloc with a deputy in Jbeil called Nazem al-Khoury, a deputy in Kesrouan called Mansour al-Bon, a deputy in Metn called Michel al-Murr, a deputy in Baabda called Edmond Gharios and a deputy in Beirut called Nayla Tueni....I had hoped to see these five deputies joining us on the path for change and reform and not supporting a political group opposing us, for this group’s history is known just like everyone knows where it worked in politics, to whom it succumbed and where it got its support and money to buy new positions."

This intensified and more direct battle between President Sleiman and General Aoun is a good insight into how the post-election field might look like (ignoring Nayla Tueni who is a March 14 "independent" as opposed to a Sleiman "indepednet").While, al-Khoury is a former advisor to the President and formed his Jbeil Independent Decision list. March 14 are very much part of these independents, especially in the Metn, Baabda and Kesrouan. Thus, Aoun referring to the groups history. However, this is complicated by the uncomfortable relationship March 14 have with Sleiman, due to what March 14 perceive to be a lack of protection in last years May 7 th events and most importantly Sleiman being seen as a Syrian appointee. However, with Sleiman gaining his own political backing and March 14 are grudgingly wanting to put the best possible opposition to what looks like a electorally strong March 8, March 14 are accomodating Sleiman's indpendents.

Aoun is not so comfortable with Sleiman taking any of his support. Therefore, the electoral battle that is shaping up between Aoun and Sleiman is going to add yet another interesting dynamic to this election and the post-election landscape of Lebanon.

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