Monday, June 13, 2005

Here comes "Le General"

General Aoun has just accomplished a very rare feat in Lebanon's political life. He peacefully turned the tables on the power that is – the Joumblatt Hariri and Kornet Sehwan coalition.

Aoun swept all the seats in the first two constituencies of Mount Lebanon, toppling most of the other Christian figures. And he almost won an impossible victory in Baabda-alley, the third constituency, which is considered one of Walid Joumblatt private fiefdoms.

General Aoun has just entered the very exclusive club of Lebanese factions that control the Parliament (in addition to the Hariri, Jumblatt, Hizbullah and Nabih Berry’s bloc) and completely changed the Lebanese political arena.

One of the most striking changes due to Aoun's victory, is that no one will be able to outset Emile Lahoud, the current pro-Syrian President, from office after the election. Not even the once mighty Hariri-Joumblatt alliance.

For General Aoun has repeatedly declared that he will not accept the removal of the Maronite President. And now, after his victory, Aoun and his parliamentary bloc have the means to obstruct any parliamentary motion to remove the president from his office.

Another consequence is the sounding political defeat befallen Jumblatt and his ally Saad Hariri. The great majority they thought they will get (more than 80 MP) has evaporated. And their Christian allied faction (Kornet Shehwan) is now officially dead. They are now left with only with Nabih Berry and Hizbullah. And their prospects for a clear victory in the north are diminishing by the hour, especially after the reconciliation of Sleiman Frangieh and Omar Karame and their alliance with General Aoun.

General Aoun has accomplished in these elections what Bashir Gemayel did with political assassination. He has become the uncontested Christian political leader, with influence that transcends the many confessional barriers.

The General will lead a parliamentary bloc of around 20 to 25 deputies (depending on the last round of election). Most of them are young, university graduates and moderate Lebanese who did not participate in the civil war.

These new arrivals will hopefully introduce some greatly needed fresh blood in the Parliament, which could help with Lebanon's economic and political problems. Moreover General Aoun’s free patriotic movement is the only group of the four others that have a clear set and defined electoral program.

However, General Aoun’s victory allowed some of Syria’s staunchest allies to return to the Parliament. Like MPs Michel Murr and Sleiman Frangieh. A fact that might alienate many Lebanese, who consider Syria and its cronies as the source of most of their country’s problems.

Finally, General Aoun victory will profoundly change the political life in Lebanon. Although, some of these changes look very promising, the rest further assert the need for a radical overhaul of the Lebanese political elite and institutions.

In the end, the real consequences of this victory depend on Aoun’s future actions. If he sticks to his announced reform program and secular principles, then maybe his stormy entrance to the Parliament will herald the first steps of Lebanon's on the one thousand miles road towards democracy and prosperity. If not, then he will become just another corrupt politician in an ever-growing repertoire.
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