Thursday, May 10, 2007

The next Lebanese president

Three interesting newspaper stories came out during the last few days regarding the next Lebanese president. As usual, they all contradict each other, so it’s up to the blogosphere to make sense out of them.

First, there was Michel Aoun who suggested that the president should be elected by all Lebanese. This got him a lot of criticism because usually the Christians decide on the next president. The president has to be Maronite in Lebanon and Christians feel it’s unfair to let Muslims decide on their president.

Aoun, however, has always stressed his party does not represent Christians only, but is intended for all Lebanese. Hence his proposal to let all Lebanese decide on the next president. Sounds fair, doesn’t it? Only thing is that I can’t help but thinking that Aoun has a second agenda with his proposal. He must know that he has lost much of his support among Christians ever since he became buddies with the pro-Syrian Hezbollah.

The general who launched the War of Liberation to free Lebanon from Syria back in the late 80s is now sleeping with the enemy, or so many Christians say. By opening up the presidential election to all Lebanese, Aoun wants to ensure the backing of the Shiite vote, which together with the remaining Christian voters he still has, will most likely be enough to elect him.

Second, let’s suppose Aoun is sincere when he states that his party is for all Lebanese and not just for Christians only. How does that add up to an article in yesterday’s L’Orient-Le Jour, where Ibrahim Kanaan, the number 2 of Aoun’s party, was quoted: “Comme l’a dit le général Aoun, seulement 16% des chrétiens on pu élire leur représentants.” (Like general Aoun has said, only 16% of the Christians were able to choose their representatives).

Now, that’s interesting. First, Aoun claims he is for all Lebanese and thus the president should be elected by all, then he is quoted by his second man as complaining about the fact that the Christians are unable to choose their representatives. Of course, he will respond that members of parliament are representing only their voters while the president should be above parties and thus can be elected by all Lebanese.

But somehow this argument seems like a stretch. Surely Aoun knows the importance, if only symbolic, of the presidency: many Christians see it as a guarantee of Christian influence in a country increasingly dominated by Muslims.

A third article that didn’t clarify much was appeared yesterday, also in l’Orient-Le Jour. In it, Samir Geagea was quoted as saying that Aoun as president would be possible if certain conditions were met. Wow, arch enemy Geagea is willing to see Aoun become president, now that’s news!

Surely enough, Naharnet had a completely different story, namely Geagea saying on behalf of March 14 that they would never accept Aoun as president. Yup, that’s more like it. It seemed that l’Orient-Le Jour was a bit too optimistic. Geagea went on to say that March 14 will be deciding on the next president and that in fact it has already reached consensus over who it will be.

As usual in Lebanon, he didn’t specify the name yet. Anyone living long enough in this country, will notice that the Lebanese love nothing more than talking in riddles and giving each other secret handshakes.


Gerard said...

I just hope that there will be new leaders without a civil war past, before the old ones poke up the differences to an uncontrollable fire.

JoseyWales said...

...usually the Christians decide on the next president.

NO, I think more usually than not they don't. (Frangieh being the catastrophic exception).

Other than that, agreed, the papers and politicians are full of it.

Jester said...

The point of the story is to prove to the Patriarch and to the People, that he has the majorities approval of the Christians.

The Patriarch is really and genuinely in the middle. Since he fears any clashes among Christians themselves... he takes the neutral side, even though it may seems at times he doesn't. It is up to the politicians to prove who has the lead among Christians. Up to now... Aoun has the lead.

Riemer Brouwer said...

Well, i dunno how neutral the patriarch has been recently. It seems Bkirki is constantly lashing out against Aoun and vice versa.

Also, it seems that Aoun's buddy Franjieh is pretty much out of the "circle of trust" ever since his suggestion that the patriarch was getting sexually aroused when meeting with a delegation of widows.

Somehow, the Christian opposition has consistently been able to alienate the most important person in the Christian community. Not very smart.

M Bashir said...

Anyone living long enough in this country, will notice that the Lebanese love nothing more than talking in riddles and giving each other secret handshakes.
Well said. One (unacceptable) reason behind this is the law. If a name is mentioned, it becomes very easy to sue for libel. Another reason (maybe the real one) is that it gives the politicians plenty of room to maneuver (lie) and keep their personality cult alive.

Riemer Brouwer said...

Yup, i fully agree: politicians like to keep things as vague as possible. Normally, you would have the press to keep things in check by asking the difficult questions. But somehow that's not happening here. Too bad.

Abou Hadid said...

It is too bad how General Aoun turned out to be. At first I was a strong supporter, but later on he showed that all he cared about was to get to the presidency. He claims, he's trying to take care of more Christian representation in the government, but for now all he showed is that he's an ally of a group who's against Lebanon and all that group cares about is Iran and Syria, the enemies of Lebanon.