Aoun Wins…And Loses


Mideast Mirror
August 6, 2007 Monday

Yesterday’s Metn by-elections produced a narrow win for Maronite
opposition leader ‘Aoun, but he is now under pressure to reassert
his leadership of the Christians, says Charles Ayyoub in today’s
Lebanese ad-Diyar

A fierce electoral battle over the political leadership of Lebanon’s
Christian community ended last night with the results of the
by-elections to replace assassinated Lebanese MP and cabinet minister
Pierre Gemayel. The battle ended with the victory of opposition
leader General Michel ‘Aoun’s candidate, but with a much reduced
majority compared to the results achieved by ‘Aoun in the 2005 general
elections. This was a defeat for ‘Aoun, argues the editor-in-chief
of a pro-opposition daily. But it was the result of a campaign of
forgeries and falsifications by the pro-government forces. ‘Aoun is
now likely to move onto the offensive in an attempt to regain his
popularity among the Christians.

[AP reports Lebanon’s government suffered a blow today (Monday)
when a little-known opposition candidate defeated a former president
in a tense parliament by-election that showed the divisions among
Lebanon’s once-dominant Christians. The vote Sunday to replace two
assassinated anti-Syrian legislators turned into a showdown between
the pro-U.S. government and opponents supported by Syria and Iran.

One seat, in Beirut, was won by a pro-government candidate who ran
virtually unopposed. The second took place in the Christian stronghold
of Metn, north of Beirut, in which a political newcomer allied
to Christian opposition leader Michel Aoun defeated Amin Gemayel,
who was Lebanon’s president from 1982-1988. Christians have been
nearly evenly split between the two camps. The fierce division was
clear in Metn’s vote. Before dawn Monday, Interior Minister Hassan
Sabei announced the results, declaring Aoun’s ally, Kamil Khoury,
the victor by a margin of only 418 votes, with 39,534 votes against
Gemayel’s 39,116. Turnout was 46 percent. The loss could severely
hurt the elder Gemayel’s hopes of running for president again. Aoun,
a former army commander who is the most prominent Christian leader
in the opposition, already has said he intends to run to replace
pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud, who term ends later this year.]

PRO GOVERNMENT OUTCOME: "Until late last night, the results of the Metn
by-elections had not been officially declared," writes Editor-in-chief
Charles Ayyoub in Monday’s pro-opposition Lebanese daily ad-Diyar.

Around 2:30 am, the first information from the officials in charge of
counting the votes was that [opposition candidate] Dr. Kamil Khouri
had won 39,534 votes against [pro-government] candidate and former
president Amin Gemayel’s 39,116 votes. It thus seems that Khouri has
won with a difference of 418 votes.

The Northern Metn electoral battle has now ended, and the outcome
is in favor of the Christians of the pro-government [parliamentary]
majority. The reasons for this are the following:

— First, [anti-government and main opposition leader in the Christian
camp General Michel] ‘Aoun chose the wrong timing for the battle. He
gave in to personal provocations and joined the battle under a
wrong banner. ‘Aoun was fighting over a parliamentary seat that had
become vacant because of the martyrdom of an MP who was cut down
by assassination [Amin Gemayel’s son late MP and Lebanese cabinet
minister Pierre Gemayel].

— Second, the parliamentary majority engaged in a huge political
exploitation of the Christians. It falsified the facts and engaged
in forgeries intended to confuse when it presented the battle as
one between Amin Gemayel on one side, and the ‘Damascus countryside’
[in reference to Syrian intelligence] and the Syrian-Iranian axis on
the other side. In other words, the battle was not fought within the
domestic Lebanese framework.

After all, General ‘Aoun did not use the term ‘petro-dollar’ for
example; nor did he refer to Saudi Arabia or Wahhabism or other such
terms [in reference to the supposed supporters of the pro-government
forces, especially the late Lebanese PM Rafiq Hariri’s Sunni Future

By contrast, the Christians of the pro-government parliamentary
majority resorted to scare tactics so as to lead the general Christian
public to fear the ‘Damascus countryside,’ the return of Syria, and
the Syrian-Iranian axis. They invented reports regarding meetings held
by General ‘Aoun with Syrian officials. But these were mere forgeries
and fabrications, although they had the final effect of bolstering
president Amin Gemayel’s camp. Such practices are immoral and they
affected the outcome of the elections.

— Third, the question now is this: Can the parliamentary majority’s
Christians withstand ‘Aoun’s reaction after their campaign of
forgeries? The election result has shown that president Gemayel has
regained leadership of the Metn and that ‘Aoun has lost among the
Christian public in this area. He is therefore now in a defensive
position and is likely to go on the offensive in his next plan.

— Fourth, the Change and Reform Current [General ‘Aoun’s parliamentary
bloc] has lost the battle and party-political and sectarian feudalism
have won instead. The Maronite spirit seems to have shifted towards
a more hard-line position. The elections outcome were a sort
of referendum on General ‘Aoun’s policies, but from a sectarian
perspective influenced by political forgeries and falsifications.

Therefore, the coming political battle is likely to be fierce. The
Christians in the parliamentary majority will tell ‘Aoun that he
no longer represents Lebanon’s Christians and that had it not been
for the Armenians’ eight thousand votes [most Armenians voted for
‘Aoun’s candidate] he would have been fully defeated.

"General ‘Aoun will now move to a political offensive against
feudalism and corruption; he will now have to draft a new strategy,"
concludes Ayyoub.