Lebanon News

Aoun convinced he has final say over election

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, right, receives FPM leader Michel Aoun in Beirut, Wednesday, June 4, 2014. (The Daily Star/Lebanese Parliament Website, HO)

Last week’s headlines may have been devoted to an apparent resurgence in terrorist plots and general instability, but the presidency continues to be a pressing issue.

Despite intense consultations, especially among the ambassadors of the five permanent Security Council member states, no solution to the presidential stalemate has presented itself.

This Wednesday’s scheduled parliamentary session to elect a new president will likely fail for lack of quorum, like those that preceded it. Another session will likely be set for some time around the 15th.

Meanwhile, Lebanese parties are digging their heels in over their presidential picks.

The March 14 coalition is still insisting on running Lebanese Forces head Samir Geagea, while MP Walid Jumblatt is doing everything he can to push for Henry Helou as a consensus candidate. MP Michel Aoun, backed by the March 8 alliance, is awaiting the outcome of talks with Future Movement leader Saad Hariri in hopes of convincing him to back Aoun’s presidency, an outcome observers deem unlikely.

But Gen. Michel Aoun has adopted a military approach in his political battle to become president, and will apparently stop at nothing.

Visitors to Rabieh quoted Aoun as saying that his new strategy will be announced during a news conference Monday, when will propose a new parliamentary electoral law and direct, popular presidential election.

The visitors said Aoun believes that it is necessary to find a formula to ensure “true Christian representation” as long as the presidency is considered the highest Maronite post.

Aoun is reportedly taking a new approach, demanding the amendment of the Constitution, which he knows he cannot win the backing for, in order to manipulate his rivals into backing his presidency as a compromise.

Aoun’s visitors said he still considers himself the only deserving candidate for this post and the true consensus candidate, and therefore he will not back anyone else, insisting it would be difficult to hold the election without him. He criticized Patriarch Beshara Rai’s position, saying the Maronite spiritual leader’s recent comments did not align with what he told Maronite politicians in talks held under the auspices of Bkirki.

Despite recent attacks, Aoun’s visitors said he does not see an imminent threat to Lebanon, and believes that focus will return to the presidential election after the situation in Iraq is resolved. Saudi Arabia and Iran will then be free to discuss a regional agreement, which should include the Lebanese presidential election.

According to his visitors, Aoun does not believe Riyadh has made a decision yet regarding the Lebanese presidential election. He expects positive developments soon in this regard that will bolster his claim.

Aoun emphasized to his visitors the strength and cohesion of the March 8 alliance, but noted that the understanding between Russia, Iran, Syria and Hezbollah must be reinforced in the coming months. Aoun said he will have the final say in discussions taking place in Arab and regional capitals over the presidential election.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 30, 2014, on page 3.




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