Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun is fighting for his legacy as he displays military cunning in the battle for the presidency, possibly the last battle of his political career, parliamentary sources told The Daily Star. Every once in a while he opens a new front, knowing it will lead nowhere, with the aim of tiring his political opponents and pushing them to concede the presidency to him, they said.
The latest example of this is the draft law proposed by 10 lawmakers from Aoun’s Change and Reform bloc for the direct election of the president.
Aoun knows full well that such a bill cannot be considered during an exceptional session, because such a draft law requires a constitutional amendment, which can only be proposed during a normal session, which will begin after Oct. 15.
The bill is the brainchild of Aoun, the undeclared presidential candidate of the March 8 coalition. It stipulates the direct election of the head of state in a bid to prevent a presidential vacuum from occurring in the future.
Aoun suggested that only Christians would vote in a first round, with the top two candidates then facing a vote by the general public.
Between now and Oct. 15, Aoun will likely stick to his guns, insisting to anyone who stresses the importance of electing a new president that this law would solve the problem and the country should wait and see what Parliament will decide in this regard.
The sources see this as part of a never-ending series of maneuvers to hobble the presidential election until Aoun can secure a deal allowing him to assume the top post.
The sources gave several examples of Aoun’s fighting style, pointing out that he rejected the 1989 Taif Agreement, dissolved Parliament as prime minister and characterized parliamentarians through his media outlets as “former lawmakers,” and yet he continues to participate in parliamentary politics under the Taif agreement.
FPM lawmakers say that the proposal for the new law stems from Aoun’s long-held conviction that direct elections are the best means of improving Christian political representation, especially after the failure of Parliament to agree on a new parliamentary election law that would represent Christians more fairly than under the current law.
They deny that the proposal is a ploy to force himself as a compromise candidate by asking for the impossible, in order to achieve the possible. The impossible in this scenario is amending the Constitution, while the possible is Aoun becoming president.
Aoun still considers himself the most deserving of the highest Christian post because he enjoys the greatest popular and parliamentary support.
In this context, the sources dismissed Jumblatt’s attempts to convince Hezbollah and the Amal movement to agree on a consensus candidate. They noted that this plan rested on the support of Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and his March 8 allies, who still back Aoun in his battle for the presidency.
The FPM sources also played down efforts by Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai and the “so-called moderate” political figures to convince Aoun to back down.
They expected that Rai would change his position upon his return from the Vatican this week, and added that according to their information, the Holy See was not comfortable with the many political positions that had been adopted by Rai which divided Christians, rather than bringing them together during a time when the community faced unprecedented threats in the region.
High-placed political sources sympathetic to Aoun’s presidential ambitions said that his stubbornness in refusing to back down and March 14’s refusal to accept him as a consensus candidate would undoubtedly prolong the presidential crisis until external forces colluded to end it.