BEIRUT: In A Danger Zone


Monday Morning, Lebanon
July 30 2007

The opposition is to have candidates in both by-elections, in Beirut
and the Metn, to elect two new MPs to replace the martyrs Walid Eido
and Pierre Amin Gemayel. The confrontation in Beirut will not be of
large scope since MP Saad Hariri, leader of the majority and the
unquestioned leader of Beirut’s Sunnite community, is backing the
candidacy of Amin Itani for the Sunnite seat.

But the battle in the North Metn will be a stern test for all
concerned. It will show to what extent the two sides, the majority
and the opposition, have influence on the Christian scene.

Sources close to MP General Michel Aoun say he has, or believes he is
sure of, some 8,000 votes from the local Armenian community, provided
by the Tashnak Party, and about 10,000, provided by MP Michel Murr.

This, the sources say, gives him a minimum of 18,000 votes, to which
will be combined votes from members of the Syrian Social National
Party and Aoun’s own Free Patriotic Movement. These votes, the general
believes, will carry the election for him. Officials of the Tashnak
Party have said their backing for Aoun is clear, and Michel Murr says
his support for the general is "unshakeable".

Traditionally, Murr has also run on the list of the Kataeb Party, and
his record of cooperation with the Gemayel family is a long one. But
some observers say Aoun has persuaded him to depart from his past line.

This may be true. On the other hand, Murr is working for the future,
not only for this election, and any misstep might affect his future
position. For this reason, many observers believe that he will not
come down fully on one side or the other, but will try to maintain
equidistance from both, without declaring his stand openly.

If Aoun’s candidate wins the election, that will be represent a serious
reverse for the March 14 Forces. It would bolster the opposition,
helping it in its local and external negotiations regarding the
presidential election and other important issues. It would also
give credence to the general’s repeated assertions that, despite his
alliance with Hezballah, he is still the most popular politician in
the Christian community.

But if the Aoun candidate loses to Amin Gemayel, candidate of
the majority, it would be clear that his standing in the Christian
community is waning from its high point two years ago. This would have
unforeseeable consequences for his alliance with Hezballah and other
opposition parties, which might begin thinking of backing someone
else as a plausible presidential candidate, one who is not close to
the opposition but who at least does not represent the majority. Aoun
would then not be elected president, and Hezballah would understand
that it could not rely on Aounist MPs to help it obtain a majority in
the legislature. In a word, many things would change on the political

No new president?

The result of the Metn by-election will be a key indicator of sentiment
on the Christian scene and give an idea of how the situation may
develop in regard to the presidential vote.

Among opposition circles, a list of five names of presidential
candidates acceptable to external forces supporting the opposition,
in the hope that an agreement can be reached with the majority on one
of them. Interestingly, the list does not include the name of General
Aoun, who therefore is not the opposition’s one and only candidate.

Opposition sources say that Aoun is being kept "in reserve", that his
"card should not be burned at this early stage".

The March 8 Forces know that Christian public opinion, not least the
patriarch, wants a president to be elected; otherwise there would
be an unacceptable vacuum, and the opposition hopes that Christian
opinion can be persuaded to accept a neutral personality who has no
links with the March 14 Forces.

Another option being canvassed by the opposition is to have an
"interim" president elected for two years only, in the hope that
at the end of his two-year term, the situation will have improved
sufficiently to make possible the election of a successor who would
serve the full six-year term. The difficulty here is that there is
nothing about a two-year presidential term in the Constitution, which
would have to be amended. But this would be seen as giving legitimacy
to the amendment of 2004 that made possible the extension of President
Emile Lahoud’s term by three years and that led to UN Resolution 1559,
which was imposed as a punishment for the extension.

The majority is preparing a counterstrike against these opposition
scenarios, but the country is in a danger zone. The possibility that
no new president will be elected in september, and that the country
will be without a head of state for an indefinite period, is a very
real one.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS