The race to convince Michel Aoun to accept a compromise over electing a president in Lebanon has been on for some time, as the Free Patriotic Movement leader receives delegations of people trying to change his mind.
The interlocutors have ranged from Aoun’s own March 8 allies and the Maronite patriarchate to his political rivals and even foreign diplomats.
While their intentions might be good, their optimism is largely misplaced because they have misread Aoun’s stance on the presidency, a position forged in the last few years of the Civil War.
Back then, when Aoun believed that he alone had the answers for the country’s ills, he opted to confront all sides – the Syrian Army, his rivals in the Lebanese Forces, members of Parliament and even the international community.
But in contrast to the late 1980s, Aoun today enjoys much more political support, in the form of allies at home and in the region.
Aoun is now, after helping scuttle the election of a successor to Michel Sleiman, talking about holding early parliamentary elections and trying to disrupt the functioning of the caretaker Cabinet, which is embarrassing to even his allies.
Aoun believes that his age won’t let him stand as a viable candidate six years from now, meaning today is a case of “now or never.” While he has the right to take such a stance, the simple fact is that he doesn’t qualify as a consensus candidate, which is what the search for a compromise is all about.
Aoun also realizes that the advantages he currently holds might not last particularly long, which is another reason for him to hold out – for himself as president, but not for a compromise that serves the country’s interests.