On the 46th try, Lebanon gets a new president General Michel Aoun
Written by Malek
Congratulations to the new President of Lebanon from khazen.org. We hope a Lebanon Strong under a strong and safe Lebanese Presidency full of prosperity and peace for Lebanon, the land of the Saints.
List of several articles from Reuters, Al Jazeera, Gulfnews, New York Times, daily star, cs
monitor, naharnet, foreign affairs below. All of these articles
represent the opinion of the authors.
People carry pictures of newly appointed
Lebanese President Michel Aoun while waving Free Patriotic Movement
(FPM) flags in the Haret Hreik area, southern suburbs of Beirut, Lebanon
October 31, 2016.
Women carry a picture of newly elected
Lebanese President Michel Aoun in the Haret Hreik area, southern suburbs
of Beirut, Lebanon October 31, 2016.
By Reuters, The Lebanese parliament elected former army commander Michel
Aoun as president on Monday, ending a 29-month presidential vacuum as part of a
political deal that is expected to make Sunni Muslim leader Saad al-Hariri
prime minister. Aoun, who is in his 80s, secured the presidency by winning the
support of 83 MPs, well above the absolute majority of 65 needed to win,
according to a tally of votes read out in a televised broadcast from
parliament. Fireworks echoed across
Beirut as the tally showed Aoun the winner. Aoun, an MP, was shown smiling in
his seat. The Lebanese presidency is reserved for a Maronite Christian in the
country's sectarian power-sharing system.
Hariri's decision to endorse Aoun marked a major political concession
reflecting the diminished role of Saudi Arabia in Lebanon, and the decisive
influence wielded by the Tehran-backed Hezbollah. Saudi Arabia had backed
Hariri and his allies through years of political struggle with Hezbollah and
its allies. Hariri's own financial misfortunes have also played a big part in
bringing about the breakthrough. His political network in Lebanon was hit by a
cash crunch caused by financial troubles at his Saudi-based construction firm,
Analysts say the position of prime minister, which he previously held from
2009 to 2011, should help him shore up his support ahead of parliamentary
elections that are due to be held next year. Aoun is due to meet MPs later this
week on their preferences for prime minister. He is obliged to designate the
candidate with the greatest support among MPs, expected to be Hariri. (Writing
by Tom Perry; Editing by Samia Nakhoul)
Pictures of past Lebanese presidents
hang on a wall inside the presidential palace prior to presidential
elections in Baabda, near Beirut, Lebanon October 29, 2016.
A man hangs Lebanese flags along a road
prior to presidential elections in Baabda, near Beirut, Lebanon October
A general view shows the interior of the
presidential palace prior to presidential elections in Baabda, near
Beirut, Lebanon October 29, 2016.
A general view shows the presidential
palace prior to presidential elections in Baabda, near Beirut, Lebanon
October 29, 2016.
By Gulfnews - Joseph A. Kechichian, London: Free Patriotic Movement leader (FPM) and March 8 candidate
General Michel Aoun, 81, was elected President of the Republic of
Lebanon yesterday with 83 votes. There were 36 blank votes cast, which
sent a clear signal that opposition to Aoun’s rule will be present, even
if scores of Future Movement and Lebanese Forces (LF) deputies cast
favourable ballots. What the full six-year term will entail is a mixed
bag of surprises, as Aoun will have to hone his compromise skills in a
country that lost such attributes among elites anxious to destroy each
Quorum was established on Monday for the 46th session, and
when the first vote was taken, Aoun managed to secure the support of 83
deputies, which was short of the required two-thirds majority of 86 (out
of 128). He prevailed in the second round, but the actual voting was
repeated three separate times as illegalities abounded. While 128
ballots were counted, there were only 127 deputies present in
parliament, given that Robert Fadel resigned several months ago. In
addition to the 36 blank ballots, 7 were invalidated and one went to
Sethrida Geagea, the wife of the LF leader Samir Geagea.
Franjieh, the Marada leader and candidate, had requested blank votes and
he seems to have gathered those of the Amal Movement, the Phalange
Party and at least the following independent parliamentarians: Najeeb
Mikati, Ahmad Karame, Dory Chamoun, Boutros Harb and Nayla Tueni. Even
if Aoun failed to win all of the votes he had repeatedly requested
during the past two years, his mandate was now a fact of life, with the
immensely critical task of forming a government, presumably under the
leadership of Prime Minister Sa‘ad Hariri.
Hariri’s task, should
Aoun and Hezbollah honour the deal they made to select him, will now
spend weeks or months to put together a government, though the first
indications that this will be a gargantuan task appeared a few days ago
when Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader, tasked Speaker Nabih Berri
to negotiate over the line-up of the new government on behalf of the
March 8 forces. This was a stunning development because Berri harbours
deep distrust of Aoun and objects to the Aoun-Hariri deal.
In fact, Hezbollah’s failure to reconcile Berri, Franjieh and Aoun
prompted Nasrallah to authorise the Speaker to act, which was likely to
end any bets on a dispute between the Shiite duo in the next few weeks
and months. Nasrallah swallowed his pride and let Berri and Amal cast
blank votes though he and his acolytes insisted that everyone backed
Not only had Berri openly announced that Amal
would not vote for Aoun and that it would join the ranks of the
opposition, the Speaker was livid that Aoun and Hariri engaged in
“bilateral” agreements that marginalised Shiites in power, starting with
Berri himself. This was unacceptable and it is clear that Aoun and
Hariri will now have little choice but to negotiate with Berri.
a government is composed, it remains to be determined whether much of
anything will change on the domestic front, ranging the gamut from
collecting accumulating garbage in Lebanese streets to eventual
solutions to water and electricity. Corruption, which everyone practised
with a vengeance because it was profitable, will continue on Tuesday
just as much as it was on Monday, although many Aounists will be giddy
that their man will now clean-up the country.
More serious foreign
policy clashes will emerge quickly as well. Assuming that Hariri
kowtows to Hezbollah’s demand that the Cabinet apply the “tryptic of the
people-army-resistance” in its declaration, differences over the war in
Syria will muddy the waters. Aoun and Hariri will thus need to find a
solution to explain what cannot possible to be justified — Hezbollah’s
military presence on behalf of President Bashar Al Assad — or else face
severe internal divisions. Under the Taif Accords, much of the real
source of power resides with the premier, and it will be impossible to
know whether Hezbollah and the FPM will honour the deals they reached
with Hariri who, it is worth recalling, is openly opposed to Al Assad.
important is the designation of Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation
by the Gulf Cooperation Council, whose citizens are urged not to travel
to Lebanon. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and other GCC partners may
invite Aoun to visit, but beyond protocol, few anticipate dramatic
changes because of Hezbollah’s critical role throughout the region as a
tool in the hands of Iran, a GCC foe.
In fact, there is no denying
that Nasrallah holds a Damocles Sword over Aoun’s head, who will now
need to figure how to ingratiate himself with the Arab Gulf States while
keeping internal stability. The new president will require stamina to
negotiate, wisdom to advance the national interest, and patience to see
some of his projects through. He might well succeed although few should
expect dramatic changes in the near term.
By The New York Time, Mr. Aoun, 81, has developed a fervent political base of supporters who consider him a last hope for the country’s dwindling Maronite Christian community. But his detractors are just as passionate, blaming him for allying with his onetime enemies, the Syrian government, and with the militant group Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran and Syria and listed as a terrorist group by the United States. The Lebanese Parliament met in a ceremonial session in Beirut on Monday to formally anoint Mr. Aoun, who secured the requisite number of ballots after four rounds of voting. Gunfire and honking broke out in East Beirut after Mr. Aoun passed the voting threshold in Parliament, and the proceedings were broadcast on every major Lebanese television network.
The voting itself made clear the condition of a legislature that failed on 45 previous occasions to even muster a quorum for a presidential ballot. On Monday, the speaker of Parliament had to cancel two rounds of voting simply because someone had slipped an extra ballot into the transparent box. The whole process took two hours and included votes cast for the pop star Myriam Klink and Zorba the Greek. For all that, Mr. Aoun’s ascendancy was assured last week, when the main Lebanese political parties finally brokered a deal that would put Mr. Aoun, Hezbollah’s favored candidate, in the presidential palace. That agreement gave the prime minister’s post to Saad Hariri, a Sunni Muslim and former prime minister who is preferred by Saudi Arabia. Top positions in Lebanon are allocated by religious sect in a delicate balancing act.
The resolution of Lebanon’s painfully drawn-out leadership battle marks a small victory for Iran on the score card of its regional struggle against Saudi Arabia, which had indirectly pushed for a different presidential candidate, Suleiman Frangieh. The choice kicks down the road any decisive action to revamp the dysfunctional consensus model for Lebanon’s political system, which enables any of the country’s sectarian warlords to veto government decisions. As a result, Lebanon has been unable to effectively address any of its recurring crises, including questions as diverse as how to manage millions of refugees or how to pick up the garbage.
“I believe that for the time being and for the foreseeable future, nothing is going to change,” said Ramez Dagher, an analyst who runs a blog about Lebanese politics called Moulahazat. Unless there are other secret agreements, Mr. Dagher said, which is always a possibility in Lebanon, then Mr. Aoun comes into office unusually free from constraints, other than choosing Mr. Hariri as prime minister. “He is in a better position to maneuver,” Mr. Dagher said. “But that might also mean that the deadlock might be transferred from the presidential elections to the government formation and everything else that comes afterward.” In a combative inaugural address to Parliament, Mr. Aoun vowed to defend Lebanon from terrorism, strengthen the military and take measures to push Syrian refugees to return home. “Lebanon is walking through a minefield but is still at a safe distance from the flames in the region,” he said. “One of our priorities is to prevent igniting a spark and to adopt an independent foreign policy.” Known to his followers as “the General,” Mr. Aoun has pursued the presidency for decades. In the 1980s, during Lebanon’s civil war, he served as chief of staff of the army and led one of two rival Lebanese governments. During the last two years of that war, from 1989 to 1991, Mr. Aoun’s forces clashed with rival Christian militia groups and with the Syrian military — a round of fighting that did nothing to alter the final outcome of the conflict but was one of its most destructive and violent chapters. Mr. Aoun boycotted the peace talks that ended the war.
Mr. Aoun won much of his popular support because of his reputation for independence. He has railed against Lebanese corruption and the tradition of warlords’ handing political parties from father to son. The political party that Mr. Aoun founded in 2005 upon return from a 15-year exile in France, the Free Patriotic Movement, immediately emerged as the dominant Christian political party in Lebanon. Soon after, Mr. Aoun rocked Lebanon’s political landscape by making peace with Syria, his longtime enemy, during a visit to Damascus. In 2006, he formed an alliance with Hezbollah. As his party garnered greater power, however, Mr. Aoun’s maverick reputation took a beating. His son-in-law, Gebran Bassil, has been accused of graft and corruption. But that did not stop Mr. Aoun from handing over the party’s leadership to Mr. Bassil in 2015, in an opaque transition that many party activists decried as antithetical to the party’s stated democratic principles. Lebanon has reeled under the strain of the civil war next door in Syria, which at times has spilled over the border. At least 1.5 million displaced Syrians have fled to Lebanon, meaning that one in three residents of Lebanon is a refugee. And the country’s main political factions support opposing sides in Syria.
The previous president, Michel Suleiman — also a former army chief of staff — finished his term in May 2014. Since then, Lebanon has navigated a series of political crises with a caretaker cabinet but with no president. The major political parties in the country had been deadlocked in the search for a consensus president. They failed to negotiate a new election law, which had been another major sticking point, but finally reached a deal on Mr. Aoun and Mr. Hariri, while leaving the rest of Lebanon’s affairs in limbo. The parties reached the agreement after years of discussions, in close consultation with representatives from foreign powers including Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United States. Traditionally, Lebanese politics has reflected regional and international power struggles, most notably the competition between Iran and Saudi Arabia for influence across the Arab world. But, some analysts say, those two regional powers largely lost interest in Lebanon as their power struggle intensified in Syria. The Saudis grew disenchanted with Mr. Hariri and his political vehicle, the Future Movement, which steadily lost influence over its Sunni constituents after the assassination of Mr. Hariri’s father, Rafik, in 2005.
“As the theater of conflict between the stakeholders in the Middle East has shifted to places like Syria and Yemen, Lebanon has become less significant,” said Elias Muhanna, a historian at Brown University and an expert on Lebanese politics. “The reins have slackened between Lebanon’s political parties and their regional backers, and the country has drifted aimlessly for the past five years.” Iran and its local ally, Hezbollah, have had the upper hand in Lebanon since Saad Hariri was forced to resign as prime minister in January 2011.
President Michel Aoun received phone calls Monday from a
number of heads of state who congratulated him on being elected as
Lebanon's 13th president.
French President Francois Hollande expressed “France's
permanent readiness to help Lebanon in light of the historic ties that
gather the two countries,” Lebanon's National News Agency reported.
Aoun for his part thanked Hollande for congratulating
him, stressing “the firmness of the Lebanese-French ties” and lauding
“the efforts that France has exerted to assist Lebanon in all fields.”
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani meanwhile congratulated
Aoun and hoped his election will boost bilateral ties between Lebanon
“Your election comes at a very critical time during
which the region is facing the threats of the takfiri movements and the
terrorist groups and the ambitions of the Zionist entity (Israel). Iran
is confident that your election will strengthen the axis of the Lebanese
resistance in the face of these threat,” Rouhani added.
Aoun also received congratulatory phone calls from
Syrian President Bashar Assad, Qatar's emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad
al-Thani and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
Assad hoped Aoun's election would contribute to "reinforcing stability" in Lebanon, Syria's state news agency SANA said.
Aoun's election ends a presidential void that lasted around two and a half years.
Analysts have warned that Aoun's election will not be a
"magic wand" for Lebanon, which has seen longstanding political
divisions exacerbated by the war in neighboring Syria and has struggled
to deal with an influx of more than a million Syrian refugees.
In addition to pledges of economic growth and security,
Aoun said in his oath of office that Lebanon must work to ensure Syrian
refugees "can return quickly" to their country.
Aoun also pledged to endorse an "independent foreign policy" and to protect Lebanon from "the fires burning across the region.
Britain on Monday congratulated President Michel Aoun on
his election as Lebanon's 13th president, saying it “looks forward” to
cooperating with him.
“I congratulate General Michel Aoun on his election as
President. His election brings an end to a two and a half year
presidential vacuum and opens a new chapter for the country,” UK Foreign
Secretary Boris Johnson said in a statement.
“I hope this breakthrough will bring renewed hope to the
Lebanese people, who want to see functioning institutions which deliver
security, stability and prosperity for all,” Johnson added.
“I look forward to continued strong UK cooperation with
Lebanon on the basis of commitment to the Baabda declaration;
strengthened Lebanese institutions; and international agreements
including U.N. Security Council Resolutions and the commitments made at
the 2016 London conference,” Britain's top diplomat went on to say.
And noting that “this is a challenging time for
Lebanon,” Johnson said Lebanon needs a “unifying leadership that works
in the interest of all Lebanese.”
“The UK remains steadfast in its commitment to Lebanon and looks forward to working with President Aoun,” Johnson added.
Aoun's election ends a presidential void that lasted around two and a half years.
Analysts have warned that Aoun's election will not be a
"magic wand" for Lebanon, which has seen longstanding political
divisions exacerbated by the war in neighboring Syria and has struggled
to deal with an influx of more than a million Syrian refugees.
In addition to pledges of economic growth and security,
Aoun said in his oath of office that Lebanon must work to ensure Syrian
refugees "can return quickly" to their country.
Aoun also pledged to endorse an "independent foreign policy" and to protect Lebanon from "the fires burning across the region."
The Daily Star BEIRUT: President Michel Aoun’s rival candidate Sleiman Frangieh was among the first of Lebanon’s political leaders to congratulate him Monday following his victory in the presidential election. “I congratulated Gen. Aoun. He is the president for all of Lebanon, and he is our ally in politics. Our political path [has emerged] victorious,” the Marada Movement leader told reporters as he was leaving the Parliament vote session. Frangieh and Aoun, both hailing from the March 8 coalition, were frontrunners in the presidential race. Frangieh made his comments just two days after he urged his supporters to submit blank ballots in Monday’s vote, saying that he wanted to record his position in an election that Aoun was widely expected to win.
Aoun's main ally, Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah, held a phone conversation with the president to congratulate him and wish him good luck with his new responsibilities, a statement issued by the party's media office said. The Free Patriotic Movement founder’s presidential ambitions were all but secured after Future Movement leader Saad Hariri shifted his support from Frangieh to Aoun earlier this month. “We hope there will be a national unity government for all the Lebanese,” Hariri told reporters. “We now have a president, and we will work together with him on every issue that will be good for Lebanon,” said MP Fouad Siniora, the leader of the Future Movement’s parliamentary bloc. Siniora was among the few opposing voices within the Future Movement against Aoun. Meanwhile, Speaker Nabih Berri, who had opposed Aoun’s presidency, expressed hope that the era of the newly-elected president would turn a new page in Lebanon’s history.
"We pledge to you to lead the ship to the shores of safety, as winds and waves surrounding us are threatening more divisions. ... Your election should be the start and not the end," the speaker said, expressing Parliament's readiness to "extend the hand" to rise in Lebanon. Aoun managed to secure 83 votes in the second round of the presidential election session. He needed just 65 to win.
Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt, who shifted his support to Aoun over the weekend, called on all factions to cooperate and put their differences aside in this “new page” for Lebanon. Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea also stressed cooperation between political parties, saying it will “guarantee" a new era.
Geagea declared support for Aoun, his war-time enemy, earlier this year. Aoun’s arrival at the presidency was also welcomed on the international front. The European Union's High Representative Federica Mogherini lauded Aoun’s election.
"The election of Michel Aoun as President of the Republic of Lebanon more than two years after the end of term of his predecessor is crucial for the future of the country," a statement from her office said. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted: “Congratulations to all Lebanese on election of President Aoun. Stability and progress assured when Lebanese themselves decide for Lebanon.”
Italian President Sergio Mattarella released a statement saying that he hopes this election will be a "sign of the will of the Lebanese political forces to work together" for stability and development in the country.
The International Support Group for Lebanon congratulated Aoun on his victory, describing it as a long-awaited step to overcome Lebanon’s political and institutional crises.
The ISGL, made up ambassadors from the Arab League, the EU and the United Nations Security Council, was established to help Lebanon better cope with the Syrian refugee crisis by supporting state institutions and the Lebanese Army.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in a statement carried out by his country's mission in Beirut that the positive political event "puts an end to political stalemate ... and give hope that the Lebanese democracy was strong enough to overcome challenges."
The statement described Lebanon as a "model for coexistence," prioritizing its "stability and prosperity.”
Hamas representative in Lebanon Ali Barakeh joined the list of congratulators, hoping that the new president would be able to "lead Lebanon to the safety, prosperity and stability shores."
He urged Aoun for a "comprehensive approach to the Palestinians' conditions."
The U.S. on Monday described Michel Aoun's election as
president of Lebanon as a “moment of opportunity,” while urging the next
government to “uphold Lebanon’s international obligations.”
“The United States congratulates the people of Lebanon
on the election of President Michel Aoun, in accordance with Lebanon’s
constitution. This is a moment of opportunity, as Lebanon emerges from
years of political impasse, to restore government functions and build a
more stable and prosperous future for all Lebanese citizens,” said U.S.
State Department spokesman John Kirby in a statement.
“As Lebanon forms a new government, we look to all
parties to uphold Lebanon’s international obligations, including those
contained in U.N. Security Council Resolutions 1559 and 1701,” he added.
Kirby also underlined that Washington will “continue to
stand shoulder to shoulder with the Lebanese people and support
Lebanon’s independence, sovereignty, security, and stability.”
The U.S. Embassy in Lebanon meanwhile took to Twitter to
congratulate the Lebanese people and Aoun on “today’s election and this
moment of opportunity for Lebanon.”
Resolution 1701 ended the 2006 war between Hizbullah and
Israel while Resolution 1559 calls for the disarmament of all armed
groups in Lebanon, including Aoun's ally Hizbullah.
Earlier in the day, Lebanese lawmakers ended a lengthy
political vacuum by electing as president ex-army chief Aoun, who
promised to protect the country from spillover from the war in Syria.
Syria's five-year war has been a major fault line for
Lebanon's political class, and analysts have warned Aoun's election will
not be a "magic wand" for divisions that have long plagued
The next challenge will be forming a government, which
is expected to take months of wrangling. Presidential media office chief
Rafik Chlala told reporters consultations on naming a premier would
begin within 48 hours.
The parliament that elected Aoun has twice extended its
own mandate, avoiding elections, because of disagreements over a new
Aoun had long eyed the presidency, and his candidacy was
backed from the beginning by Iran-backed Hizbullah, his ally since a
surprise rapprochement in 2006.
Aoun was tipped to become president after receiving key
support for his nomination earlier this month from al-Mustaqbal Movement
leader ex-PM Saad Hariri, who is close to Saudi Arabia.
By The Daily Star BEIRUT: Free Patriotic Movement MP Ibrahim Kanaan
Sunday called on foreign powers to accept Lebanon’s agreement over the
presidency, saying that Michel Aoun will be the first truly Lebanese
head of state in decades. In an interview with Voice of Lebanon radio
(93.3), Kanaan said that Lebanon was on the verge of “collapse and
disintegration” if political factions did not reach an understanding on
the president. His comments come one day before Lebanese lawmakers
are set to head to Parliament to elect a new head of state, ending the
more than two-year presidential vacuum. FPM founder, Aoun, is expected
to be voted president, as he has secured the support of the country’s
main factions including Hezbollah, the Lebanese Forces and most
recently, the Future Movement. “The election of Aoun is the only
solution to preserve the state and constitution by reactivating the work
of the institutions,” Kanaan said. He added that as president, Aoun
will work to build good ties with everyone and not get involved in the
affairs of regional states and their conflicts.
“He will try to
find a middle ground in the disputes between different sides and
political factions concerning many issues,” he noted. Kanaan said that
following the elections, Aoun will immediately begin consultations with
politicians on the formation of a new government. “The Cabinet is the
right place for the development and applications of the (country’s)
future visions,” Kanaan said.
Al Jazeera Beirut -
Lebanon is on the brink of filling its presidential vacuum after
two-and-a-half years without a leader. On October 20, Saad Hariri, the
leader of the Future Movement, endorsed his political opponent, former
general Michel Aoun, for president. Hariri - the son of former prime
minister Rafik Hariri, who was assassinated in 2005 - said that his
endorsement was made in the interest of Lebanon's overall well-being.
some of his party's most notable figures quickly condemned Hariri's
endorsement of Aoun, whom Hezbollah has supported from the beginning.
The endorsement signals a weakening of the Future Movement. The next
parliamentary session to elect a president will be held on Monday. If
Aoun moves into Baabda Palace as president, what will that mean for
Lebanon? With a president finally in place, will the Lebanese government
be able to take a more proactive role in confronting the major security
and economic issues facing the country?
Many Lebanese citizens say no. Julia, a Beirut resident and owner of a small
family business, is not optimistic that having a president will improve
Lebanon's fragile and indebted economy. "Lebanon's rulers have
been changing alliances and making different kinds of deals," said Julia,
who did not provide a last name. "It's what we expect from them. I don't
see a new president leading to the improvement of the economy - at least not
for ordinary people."
Like Julia, political activist Rana Khoury believes that it will be
business as usual with a new president. "The cake would be once again
divided between sectarian leaders, and the people are always paying the
price," she said. Nor would having a president necessarily put an end to
Lebanon's ongoing political crisis. Bassel Salloukh, a professor of political
science at the Lebanese American University in Beirut, said the recent
developments reflect Lebanon's post-war politics, characterised by perpetual
According to Salloukh, the endorsement is symptomatic of a crisis within
Lebanon's sectarian elite: "My guess is that, in the coming months, we are
going to witness an intensification of this crisis." For instance, the
election of a president could be followed by another struggle over forming a
new cabinet. Allocating ministerial positions in such a way that maintains
political and sectarian balance could take months.
In some respects, Lebanon has been lucky: The current presidential vacuum
has not appeared to majorly harm the country. Aside from Lebanon's rubbish crisis, the result of an emergency plan implemented in 1997, no new domestic
political issues have emerged since former President Michel Suleiman's term
ended in 2014. Lebanon experienced a much more severe political crisis in 2008
during its last presidential vacuum. That May, violent clashes broke out between Hezbollah and its allies
against opposing militias, the most intense fighting since the end of the civil
war. It was not until an agreement was signed in Doha that Suleiman was chosen as a
consensus presidential candidate. The country was relieved, and the Doha
Agreement and Suleiman's election put an end to the clashes.
While many doubt that having a president will lead to any real change, some
civil society activists worry that Hariri's endorsement and its political
repercussions could actually make their position worse. Last year, Lebanon's garbage crisis sparked months of anti-establishment protests by groups unaffiliated with political parties. Activist
Samer Abdullah said that during this time, relations between Lebanon's two
rival political factions - the March 8 Alliance and the March 14 Alliance -
thawed somewhat, and a new narrative emerged: The people versus a single
However, the new web of alliances and rivalries created by Hariri's
endorsement could bring about a return of "ruling" and
"opposition" factions within the establishment. "With political
leaders like [Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt] and
[Amal leader Nabih Berri] opposing Aoun as president, there is now a more
defined political opposition," Abdullah said. This, he believes, may
shrink the political space available for independent movements and threaten the
momentum they had achieved.
Twenty-seven years ago, when the Taif Agreement was signed to put an end
Lebanon's brutal 15-year civil war, Lebanon had the potential to thoroughly
rebuild itself from the ground up. And it has been rebuilt in a physical sense,
with the rubble left by the fighting in downtown Beirut replaced by
skyscrapers. But many Lebanese sense that the country's political establishment
remains largely the same - even when new alliances form between politicians
once entirely at odds with each other, such as Saad Hariri and Michel Aoun. Source: Al
By Tom Perry and Laila Bassam | BEIRUT
Twenty-six years after being forced from Lebanon's presidential palace and into exile by the Syrian army, Michel Aoun is set to be elected head of state on Monday, backed by many of his old enemies. Barring a surprise, many of Lebanon's sectarian politicians will back the 81-year-old Christian leader in the parliamentary vote. Aoun can rely for support on Iranian-backed Hezbollah, with which he has been allied for a decade. But he will fulfill his long-held ambition thanks to the unlikely endorsement of Sunni leader Saad al-Hariri, who waged political war for years against the Shi'ite Hezbollah movement and its allies with Saudi backing.
Hariri is to become prime minister under the new deal which he hatched with
Aoun. Aoun's election would end a 29-month-long vacuum in the presidency, part
of a political crisis that has paralyzed Lebanon's government and raised
concerns over its future as civil war rages in neighboring Syria. However,
doubts remain over his ability to forge the cross-community consensus needed to
make his administration succeed. "I do not know to what degree he will be
able to reconcile the great contradictions that his rule will group together,"
said Nabil Boumonsef, a political commentator at An-Nahar newspaper. An Aoun
victory would mark a remarkable turn of fortune for the former general who
fought two wars in the late 1980s at the end of Lebanon's 1975-90 civil
war – one against Syria and the other against rival Christian forces.
His subsequent alliance with Hezbollah backed by its Syrian and Iranian
patrons helped to cement divisions in the once dominant Maronite Christian
community. But it also angered the United States, which views Hezbollah - a
heavily armed group and Syria's strongest Lebanese ally - as a terrorist
organization. His election will also be viewed as a victory for Hezbollah,
Tehran and Damascus over Hariri's Sunni allies in Riyadh at a time when Saudi
Arabia has appeared to retreat from Lebanon as it prioritizes fighting Iran in
the Gulf. It will also raise questions over Western policy towards Lebanon,
whose army depends on U.S. military aid.
Triggered by financial misfortune, Hariri's concession is seen as
the last resort to secure the political survival of a man who has accused Syria
of killing his father, Rafik. Hariri's standing in Lebanon has been hit by the
financial crisis caused by troubles at his Saudi-based construction firm.
Parliament is due to convene at noon (0900
GMT) on Monday to elect the president. If Aoun doesn't secure the two-thirds
majority required to win in the first round, he seems certain to prevail in a
second, where he needs 65 votes in the 128-seat chamber. His opponent is
Suleiman Franjieh, a fellow Maronite Christian, who is unlikely to command much
support. Under Lebanon's sectarian system of government, the presidency is
reserved for a member of this community.
Aoun, who headed one of two rival governments in 1988-90, has long coveted
the post. His victory would mark a new phase in Lebanese politics, and the
final collapse of the Saudi-backed alliance that had struggled against
Hezbollah and its allies since the 2005 assassination of Rafik al-Hariri.
Hariri and his allies initially accused Syria of killing Rafik. A
U.N.-backed tribunal later charged five Hezbollah members over the killing.
Hezbollah denies any role. Aoun inspires
both adulation and enmity in Lebanon, where he made his name as a combatant in
the 1975-90 civil war, like many Lebanese politicians. With Aoun heading the
biggest Christian party in parliament, it will be the first time since the war
that one of Lebanon's main Maronite leaders becomes president.
The unlikely spectrum of support for his candidacy includes civil wartime
enemies Samir Geagea, a rival Christian, and Druze leader Walid Jumblatt. But
he still has powerful adversaries opposed to his election, foremost among them
the influential Parliament Speaker and Shi'ite leader Nabih Berri.
Hezbollah's steadfast backing for Aoun has
been critical to getting him this close to the presidency. Last year Hariri
proposed Franjieh, another Hezbollah ally, for the position. But rather than
ditching Aoun, Hezbollah declared him "the obligatory path" to the presidency.
Aoun is a controversial figure abroad as well as in Lebanon, with a reputation
for erratic decision-making.
After lobbying for years against Syria from exile, he returned to Lebanon in
2005 after Syrian forces withdrew from the country in the wake of the Hariri
killing. Aoun received a hero's welcome from supporters in Beirut's Martyrs
Less than a year later, he struck his
alliance with Hezbollah, positioning himself squarely in the pro-Damascus camp
that later mobilized to try to topple the U.S.-backed government at the time.
Aoun's move to Hezbollah drew anger from the United States which
believed he had given political cover for it to keep its weapons and
"moved a long way" from his support for a U.N. resolution that sought
the disarmament of all militias in Lebanon, according to a U.S. diplomatic
cable published by Wikileaks.
In the 2006 cable, then U.S. ambassador
Jeffrey Feltman concluded Aoun's presidential ambitions were "overriding
any other concern". Aoun told the Americans the alliance was an attempt to
draw Hezbollah into the political mainstream.
In the final years of the Lebanese war, Aoun
led one of two rival governments and set up his administration at the
presidential palace at Baabda, southeast of Beirut.
In that period, he fought the "War of
Liberation" against the Syrian army and the "War of
Cancellation" against the Christian Lebanese Forces militia. The Maronites
lost much of their political power in the deal that ended the war - an agreement
Aoun had initially opposed.
Aoun visited Syria in 2009, where he met
President Bashar al-Assad. In a 2014 interview, Assad said he would welcome
Aoun's election as president, calling him a believer in "the
resistance" - a reference to Hezbollah.
Hezbollah is fighting in Syria in support of
Aoun has defended Hezbollah's role in Syria,
saying that it was defending Lebanon and Lebanese Christians from the threat of
jihadist militancy. Hezbollah's Lebanese opponents say its role there increases
the risks to the country.
Tom Perry; editing by David Stamp)
By csmonitor.com - Beirut, Lebanon — Lebanon’s lengthy impasse over electing a new
president appears to be almost over after Saad Hariri, a former prime
minister, made a bold and politically risky decision to support a
political rival for the top seat.
Lebanon has been without a
president since May 2014, when the last incumbent, Michel Suleiman,
stepped down at the end of his six-year term. The absence of a head of
state has been costly, not only hampering parliament's ability to pass
legislation and hold elections but causing economic deterioration and
underperforming state institutions, including a garbage collection
crisis that has lasted more than a year.
The 128-seat Parliament, which elects presidents, has convened 45 times over the past 2-1/2 years.
Aoun wins Jumblatt's support for presidency
By Daily Star - BEIRUT:
Presidential hopeful MP Michel Aoun Friday secured the support of the
majority of Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt's
parliamentary bloc for the upcoming election session. “The
majority of the [Democratic Gathering ] bloc agreed to support Aoun for
the presidency,” Jumblatt, the head of the bloc, told reporters.
However, he said that the bloc will hold a final meeting Saturday. “Some
might object but most of them [bloc members] are with his candidacy and
election after 2-1/2-years of vacuum,” Jumblatt said. Jumblatt's
backing guarantees Aoun major parliamentary support for the presidential
election parliamentary session scheduled for Monday. He has already
gained the support of the Future Movement, the Lebanese Forces,
Hezbollah and some of its March 8 allies.
Aoun thanked Jumblatt for his support. Ahead
of his talks with Aoun, the PSP leader met with Speaker Nabih Berri,
who strongly opposes the election of the Change and Reform leader.
explained to Berri my stance from Monday's session. If there are any
differences, they are mild," Jumblatt said, describing Berri as a
"statesman, who is keen to protect Lebanon's stability and
Aoun, accompanied by Foreign Minister Gebran
Bassil, met with Prime Minister Tammam Salam at the Grand Serail ahead
of his talks with Jumblatt at the latter's residence in Beirut's
A statement issued by the premiership’s press office said talks focused on recent local developments.
Jumblatt's declaration means that he has dropped his support for Aoun's rival, Marada Movement leader MP Sleiman Frangieh.
The meeting was held in presence of MP Henri Helou, who was nominated by Jumblatt in April 2014 for the post.
candidate needs a two-thirds majority, or 86 MPs, to be elected
president in the first round of voting. But in the second round, an
absolute majority, or 65 MPs, is sufficient to declare a candidate a
Frangieh, a key figure in the Hezbollah-led March 8
coalition, is determined to stay in the presidential race, despite
former Prime Minister Saad Hariri dropping his support in favor of Aoun.
decision was made after political consultations with various rivals in
Lebanon and an international tour that led him to Moscow, Riyadh and
Saudi State Minister for Gulf
Affairs Thamer al-Sabhan held talks Friday with several political
leaders on the second day of an official visit to Lebanon.
Sabhan's talks involved meetings with al-Mustaqbal
Movement leader ex-PM Saad Hariri, Progressive Socialist Party chief MP
Walid Jumblat, Free Patriotic Movement founder MP Michel Aoun, Lebanese
Forces leader Samir Geagea and Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi.
The Saudi envoy did not make statements after the meetings.
According to a statement issued by Geagea's office, the presidential file "was the focus of the one-hour meeting."
Sabhan had held separate talks in the morning with former premiers Najib Miqati and Fouad Saniora.
His talks with Saniora addressed “the political
developments in Lebanon and the region and the bilateral ties between
the two countries.”
Reports have said that al-Sabhan might stay in Lebanon to attend Monday's presidential election session.
The Saudi minister had arrived in Lebanon Thursday
evening. His Thursday activity involved meetings with Prime Minister
Tammam Salam and ex-presidents Michel Suleiman and Amin Gemayel.
The Saudi envoy will also meet with other Lebanese leaders in the coming hours.
Quoting Saudi Embassy sources, LBCI said Thursday that Sabhan might voice a stance on the developments at the end of his visit.
Al-Akhbar newspaper had reported Wednesday that Sabhan would express the kingdom's support for Hariri's presidential initiative.
“The Saudi envoy will carry suggestions aimed at
resolving the obstacles and lowering the level of opposition that the
speaker (Nabih Berri) has showed against the agreement between Hariri
and General Michel Aoun,” the sources added.
Media reports have said that the “real battle” will only
begin after Aoun's election as president in the October 31 session and
that some parties will not facilitate the formation of a government led
Aoun was tipped to become president after Hariri formally endorsed him last Thursday.
Berri has voiced concerns over the Aoun-Hariri
agreements that preceded the endorsement while openly declaring that his
bloc will “vote against Aoun” and that it might “join the ranks of the
Lebanon has been without a president since the term of
Michel Suleiman ended in May 2014 and Hizbullah, Aoun's Change and
Reform bloc and some of their allies have been boycotting the
parliament's electoral sessions, stripping them of the needed quorum.
Hariri, who is close to Saudi Arabia, had launched an
initiative in late 2015 to nominate Hizbullah's ally and Marada Movement
chief MP Suleiman Franjieh for the presidency but his proposal was met
with reservations from the country's main Christian parties as well as
The supporters of Aoun's presidential bid have argued
that he is more eligible than Franjieh to become president due to the
size of his parliamentary bloc and his bigger influence in the Christian
After lying vacant for two and a half years, Lebanon’s presidential
post will finally be filled by a parliamentary vote on Monday. The move
reflects a temporary and rare confluence of interests among a majority
of the country’s oligarchs and is a necessary step forward in bringing
some life back to the country’s atrophying constitutional institutions.
But politics in the country will remain tense and divided and noticeable
improvement to governance is unlikely.
The expected winner is
Michel Aoun, 81, the leader of the majority Christian Reform and Change
Party, an ally of Hezbollah, and member of the March 8 coalition, which
is aligned with Iran and the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
Aoun largely clinched the nomination two weeks ago when Saad Hariri,
the leader of the opposition, a coalition between the Future Movement
and other March 14 parties, came out in his support. In exchange, Hariri
expects to be named prime minister. Despite resistance to Aoun’s
candidacy—from parliament speaker Nabih Berri and rival presidential
candidate Suleiman Frangieh, both of whom are March 8 coalition
members—Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah appeared to seal the deal in a
public address endorsing Aoun, as well as accepting Hariri’s possible
return as prime minister, a position he had previously held from 2009 to
The presidential office has lain vacant since May of 2014,
when President Michel Suleiman’s six-year term expired. Initially, the
rival March 14 and March 8 coalitions each put forward their own
candidates, but neither of them garnered enough support. Nor could the
two coalitions agree on a third-party candidate. Government business
continued during this period, albeit at a low level of efficiency, under
the national coalition government headed by Prime Minister Tammam
Many political leaders and parties exhibited little urgency
in filling the presidential vacancy, but Hariri has felt more need to
do so. In the recent local elections, his party lost in the northern
Sunni city of Tripoli and only narrowly won the critical local elections
in the capital, Beirut. Hariri is experiencing financial difficulties
as well, with his late father’s construction company, Saudi Oger, facing
serious decline in Saudi Arabia. This has created a shortfall in party
funding, and the Future Movement has reportedly been unable to pay its
employees across some of its institutions, such as its media channel Future TV.
Hariri needs the presidential vacancy filled so that he can return to
the premiership. Last year, Hariri had nominated Aoun’s rival, Frangieh,
but the selection triggered a rapprochement between Aoun and longtime
rival Samir Geagea. Together, Aoun and Geagea whipped up strong
opposition to Frangieh’s nomination within the Christian community and
it was scuttled.
Hariri’s current pick, Aoun, has also divided the
March 8 coalition. Frangieh is a natural rival, and Berri has had
long-standing differences and political clashes with Aoun and his nephew
Gebran Bassil, the current foreign minister. The March 8 coalition is
facing a situation not unlike that of the U.S. Republican Party and its
nominee Donald Trump: having created the conditions for his rise, it is
now worried about whether he has the temperament to be president.
Similarly, the March 8 coalition is worried because Aoun is notoriously
mercurial. He has been allied with Hezbollah since 2005, but when he was
last in power as interim prime minister from 1988 to 1990, he waged a
campaign against armed nonstate actors, including Hezbollah, and
declared war on Bashar’s father, Hafez al-Assad. Aoun also might be seen
by Berri and others as potentially difficult to deal with as president
because he will be the first one since the early 1970s to have a fairly
large Christian-community power base. The previous five presidents had
small or no significant political following, and hence ended up as
fairly weak leaders.
Both Hariri’s past and present picks include
leaders allied with Hezbollah, Assad, and Iran, but Frangieh has been a
more long-standing and reliable ally of the Assad family, Hezbollah, and
Iran and would have been the safer pick for the March 8 coalition. In
any case, Hezbollah’s support is decisive within the coalition, while
Berri’s current opposition is useful as a bargaining chip. After Aoun’s
election there will be much negotiation over the formation of the next
government, Berri’s own reelection as speaker, and the development of
lucrative sectors such as offshore gas fields.
both pro-Hezbollah candidates have been very poorly received among
Hariri’s Sunni base. It has split his majority-Sunni Future Movement
party and the anti-Assad March 14 coalition. If he succeeds in heading
the next government, the influential position of prime minister will
help him to rebuild some of the power base that he has lost since 2011.
Regionally, Aoun’s election would be a victory for Iranian
influence in the Levant and a blow for Saudi Arabia. Riyadh has been
downgrading its interests in Lebanon. In February, it cancelled a $4 billion aid package to the Lebanese security forces
after foreign minister Bassil refused to support an Arab League
resolution condemning the sacking of the Saudi embassy in Tehran. And
the Saudi leadership has appeared markedly lukewarm toward Hariri.
Whether the Saudis have written off Lebanon as under Hezbollah’s thumb,
are overwhelmed with domestic concerns and the war in Yemen, or have
lost faith in Hariri’s leadership capacities, is hard to determine with
Aoun’s election to the presidency will be followed by
constitutionally mandated presidential consultations with parliament to
designate a prime minister, most likely Hariri. Hariri would then go
about forming a new government. There is nothing necessarily quick about
this process; the last negotiations to form a government lasted ten
months. The various oligarchs all want a piece of the pie, and the
negotiations would have to include difficult discussions on a new
parliamentary election law, horse trading on offshore gas deals, and
many other contentious matters.
On the one hand, Aoun’s election
to the presidency is a welcome example of a peaceful and constitutional
transfer of power in a region where that is a rarity, and where just
next door in Syria, the question of presidential succession has left
hundreds of thousands dead and millions displaced. On the other hand,
Aoun’s elevation to the presidency by the country’s oligarchy will
largely perpetuate the dysfunctional political system and is unlikely to
bring the kind of change and improvement in governance that much of the
country’s youth and non-aligned citizenry yearn for. Lebanon remains a
remarkable example of relative stability and communal coexistence and
power-sharing in a region set aflame by sectarian civil war, but its
government continues to fall far short given the vast potential of its
OP-ED: Michel Aoun’s unredeemable promises
By Makram Rabah
Oct. 31, the Lebanese Parliament is slated to convene to elect a
president for the republic, a post which has remained vacant since
former president Michel Suleiman left office in May 2014. The previous
45 attempts of the national assembly to elect a president ended in
failure, as legislators belonging to the pro-Syria/Iran March 8 alliance
boycotted the elections, preventing the required quorum of 2/3 for the
sessions to proceed.
The end of
this projected deadlock was prompted by [former prime minister] Saad
Hariri’s endorsement of his former archenemy Michel Aoun as president,
thus securing enough votes for the latter to defeat his opponent Sleiman
Franjieh, who, ironically, had been named by Hariri over a year ago.
strange turn of events will possibly allow Aoun, the omnipresent
presidential contender, to legitimately occupy the presidential palace
in Ba’abda, after he had done so illegally as an intern prime minister
in 1989. The crux of the matter, however, might not be the election of
Aoun but rather how this controversial figure will honor the promises he
had issued to the factions which secured his election.
it stands, Aoun has signed what amounts to three Faustian deals: one
with [Shia group] Hezbollah, a second with Samir Geagea and the Lebanese
Forces, and the third and most recent one with Hariri and the Sunni
Future movement. These conflicting contracts cannot logically or legally
be implemented unless one of them gains primacy thus annulling the
By going forward, Aoun
will place himself in a political and legal estoppel. This legal concept
which Aoun naturally does not acknowledge precludes people “from
denying or alleging a certain fact owing to that party's previous
conduct, allegation, or denial.” In layman’s terms, one cannot go into
contract with any entity and then sign another contract or act in a way
which prevents the initial contact from being fulfilled.
matters further is the fact that Aoun’s initial contract was the
Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) he signed with Hezbollah in 2006,
which granted the pro-Iranian faction the much-needed Christian cover
which they lacked at the time. By empowering Hezbollah, this MoU also
further weakened the Lebanese state which was gradually engaged in
reconstruction efforts for the damage inflicted by Hezbollah’s war with
In January 2016, Aoun
proceeded to sign another contract with Samir Geagea, the leader of the
Lebanese Forces, ending a somewhat primordial enmity which included a
mini Christian civil war between the two in the late 80s. Among the
items which Aoun agreed to endorse was a pledge to “empower and
encourage the rise of the Lebanese state institutions and to foster a
culture of legality and a shunning of violence in settling any dispute,
regardless of circumstances and cause.”
Aoun-Geagea pact, sound as it may seem, openly clashes with Aoun’s MoU
with Hezbollah, whose overall spirit and aim allow the latter to keep a
parallel state structure that tolerates this Iranian militia to operate
outside the realm of Lebanese state sovereignty. These allegations are
substantiated by previous instances where Hezbollah has resorted to
violence to enforce their political will. The May 7, 2008 attack on the
[Fouad] Siniora government is a case in point.
Aoun’s last contract recently signed with Hariri is more simplistic in
nature and involves more practical provisions which envisage the
division of political booty once Aoun is elected president. However,
Hariri, who is a patron of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, clearly expects
Aoun to adopt a more constructive approach in dealing with the kingdom.
This entails abandoning his support for the regime of Bashar al-Assad
and taking a somewhat unsupportive position on Hezbollah’s involvement
in the Syrian civil war.
process of wishful thinking, however, on the part of Hariri was
shattered as [Hezbollah leader] Hassan Nasrallah took to the pulpit
shortly after the Aoun-Hariri pact was announced, declaring that
Hezbollah would leave Syria only after a complete victory was achieved.
Nasrallah, regardless of what Aoun has promised his new ally, will
persist in his attacks against Saudi Arabia, which in the midst of the
new developments in Iraq and Yemen, is only expected to further
While Aoun is perceived
by the majority of the regional and international actors as unfit to
rule due to his close association with Hezbollah, the real challenge is
elsewhere. Next Monday, once Aoun leaves the parliament building and
heads to the presidential palace to serve his six years in office, which
Faustian deal will he honor? Will Aoun’s promises and debts be void, or
will this aging politician keep signing more checks which no one can
cash; pushing Lebanon further into chaos?
* Opinions expressed in this piece are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Anadolu Agency's editorial policy.
Al Sharq Al Aswat
Beirut- Change and Reform bloc chief MP Michel Aoun has not had an
easy path to the presidential palace. The “impossible” was made possible
by Future Movement leader ex-PM Saad Hariri’s approval to back Aoun for
The doors of Baabda Palace, which have been closed since ex-President
Michel Suleiman’s tenure ended in May 2014, will open again after the
parliament’s expected vote to end the presidential vacuum.
In his efforts to reach Lebanon’s top post, Aoun waged bloody and
cruel wars. He also carried out reconciliations that challenge the logic
of politics. The result was in his favor after the last obstacle to his
path to Baabda Palace was dissipated.
Aoun’s presidential dream began in September 1989 when former
President Amin Gemayel appointed him as prime minister to a six-member
interim military government after the parliament failed to elect a new
But the country fell into more chaos as a result of the presidential
vacuum and the resignation of half of the government’s members. The
rival government of Prime Minister Salim al-Hoss continued to control
large parts of Lebanon.
Liberation War and Syria
Aoun then moved to Baabda Palace and controlled Beirut’s eastern sector.
According to Free Patriotic Movement officials, Aoun had contacts
with Syria before and after his appointment as prime minister of the
interim military cabinet.
Elie Mahfoud, a former FPM official, said that Aoun had sent an envoy
to meet with then Syrian President Hafez al-Assad. The message that
Aoun sent to Assad was clear in asking the Syrian leader to consider him
“a small officer in his army.”
He said in the message that “we should legitimize its (Syria’s)
military presence in Lebanon to confront any possible attack against
Despite Mahfoud’s claims, FPM sources strongly denied the presence of
such a letter, telling Asharq Al-Awsat that the intentions of the
people behind such rumors are known.
The sources stressed that “Aoun’s history is pure as snow.”
After all efforts failed to reach a political settlement, Aoun
declared a Liberation War against Syria that failed to make huge
geographic changes but led to destruction and war on both sides of the
Green Line that separated East and West Beirut.
Aoun later decided to impose his authority on the rest of the
Lebanese territories after he rejected the Taef Accord, which was signed
by Lebanese deputies in Saudi Arabia, under an Arab and international
sponsorship. But fierce fighting in East Beirut broke out in 1990
between the two sides. It was called the Elimination War.
Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea joined the parties that backed the
implementation of the agreement, and Aoun’s military influence became
limited to Baabda Palace and the southern sector of Mount Lebanon.
When Aoun refused to abide by international agreements, the Syrian
regime received the “green light” to invade the general’s area of
influence. On the morning of October 13, 1990, Syrian warplanes entered
Beirut’s airspace for the first time to bomb the presidential palace and
army bases that fell under Aoun’s control.
Syrian troops backed by Lebanese soldiers allied with President Elias
Hrawi then moved from three fronts towards the areas of Aoun’s
Aoun then fled to the French embassy from where he instructed his
units to follow the orders of Army commander Gen. Emile Lahoud who had
been appointed by the Hoss government.
He then went into exile in France.
The French Exile
During his presence in France, Aoun worked hard to end Syria’s
hegemony over Lebanon. He was a main backer of the Syria Accountability
Act, a bill of the United States Congress passed into law on December
Resolution 1559 that was adopted by the U.N. Security Council in 2004
came against the backdrop of the Syria Accountability Act, said former
MP Ghattas Khoury.
Anti-Aoun activists have recently broadcast an old voice recording in
which the FPM chief describes Syria as a terrorist state and criticizes
the so-called Hezbollah as an extension of the Iranian regime.
Aoun’s Return and the Era of Agreements
The confrontation between Aoun on one side and Syria and Hezbollah on
the other drew to a close following the end of the neighboring
country’s hegemony on Lebanon.
Syria withdrew from Lebanon after the assassination of former Prime
Minister Rafik Hariri in February 2005, paving the way for Aoun’s return
to Lebanon after a 15-year exile.
Aoun’s supporters joined the March 14 alliance that was formed during
large-scale demonstrations held against Syria following Hariri’s
murder. But the FPM chief surprised the public by announcing that his
“problem with Syria was over. We will build the best of ties with it.”
Less than a year after his return to Lebanon, Aoun struck an
understanding with Hezbollah, which is Syria’s main ally. His FPM became
a de facto member of the March 8 alliance.
During the 2006 Hezbollah-Israel war, Lebanese areas whose residents
are Aoun’s supporters opened their doors to the people escaping the
Israeli aggression. Aoun soon became Hezbollah’s candidate for
presidency. But the party’s support for the FPM chief wasn’t enough to
bring him to Baabda Palace after the end of President Emile Lahoud’s
His dream was shattered as a result of the March 14 coalition’s strong opposition to him.
Normalization of Ties with Assad
The reconciliation with the Assad regime was culminated during a
visit that Aoun made to Damascus in 2008. He considered the trip as “the
end of an old stage and the beginning of a new era.”
When the term of President Michel Suleiman ended in May 2014, Aoun’s
ambition to reach Baabda Palace took a strong hit as result of different
alliances in the parliament.
Things became worse when the legislature’s term was extended twice.
But the lawmakers of his bloc and Hezbollah MPs continued to boycott
parliamentary sessions aimed at electing a new president.
Aoun and his ally Hezbollah resorted to paralysis in their
confrontation with the March 14 alliance. The boycott of their MPs of
the sessions set for electing a head of state caused lack of quorum at
the parliament, which left the country without a president.
Saad Hariri’s agreement with Marada leader MP Suleiman Franjieh to
back him for the presidency angered Geagea, who dropped out of the
presidential race and announced his support for Aoun after the two sides
signed a “Declaration of Intent.”
The Christian Alliance
The “Declaration of Intent” between the FPM and the LF stated the
importance of abiding by an independent foreign policy that serves
Lebanon’s interest and respects international law by having friendly
relations with all countries, mainly Arab states, to consolidate
After the LF’s support for Aoun, the only obstacle left was Saad
Hariri, who has the largest bloc in the parliament (33 MPs.) Despite
years of counter-accusations and disputes, their paths crossed and
Hariri backed Aoun’s presidential aspirations.
Aoun, who is expected to be elected on Monday, was eventually able to
clinch a deal with Hariri despite accusations by the FPM chief’s
critics of being “edgy and stubborn.”
He made a lot of diplomatic maneuvers to appease his staunchest foes to realize his big dream.
Election to reactivate economy, banks
BEIRUT: Bankers brushed off rumors that Lebanon will face dollar
liquidity crunch if MP Michel Aoun is elected as president, noting that a
new head of state will restore long overdue confidence in the country.
“These news media reports are not accurate and not in the right
direction. It’s true we have abundant liquidity in Lebanese pounds but
there is no panic in the market and the dollar purchase is not out of
the ordinary,” Joe Sarrouh, the adviser to the chairman of Fransabank,
told The Daily Star.
Some Arabic language newspapers claimed there was concern that many
Lebanese will make a run on the Lebanese pound and switch to the U.S.
dollar when the Parliament convenes on Oct. 31, to elect a new head of
Most indications show that Aoun is the likely candidate
to win the majority of the votes in the parliament after former Prime
Minister Saad Hariri endorsed his candidacy.
One Lebanese newspaper suggested that Central Bank Governor Riad
Salameh was considering a proposal to prohibit Lebanese banks from
converting their existing loan portfolios from dollars to the Lebanese
The paper claimed that such a proposal would cause
panic in the market and could induce Lebanese depositors to buy dollars
in large quantities.
All bankers who spoke to The Daily Star
dismissed this report as “utter nonsense,” insisting that the monetary
market was stable and the governor was keen to preserve the stability of
the national currency.
Sarrouh and others agreed that the
election of a president will have a positive impact on the economy and
not the other way around.
“The arrival of the Saudi envoy to
Lebanon shows that the kingdom is still interested in Lebanon and this
will also send a positive message to the market,” Sarrouh added.
Sader, the secretary-general of the Association of Banks in Lebanon,
hailed the expected election of a president on Oct. 31, as a step in the
“The election of a president will definitely
have a positive impact on Lebanon on all levels. This election and the
formation of the Cabinet will probably encourage Gulf nationals to
reinvest in Lebanon and pave the way for more inflows of money from the
Gulf states to our country,” Sader stressed.
categorically denied some media reports that the election of a president
could lead to the devaluation of the Lebanese pound.
that the Central Bank intends to issue certificates of deposit with
long maturity to absorb the excess liquidity in Lebanese pounds held by
It is estimated that lenders in Lebanon have more than LL11 trillion due to the financial engineering by the Central Bank.
banks are concerned that if the interest rates on the Lebanese pound
deposits decline, many depositors could switch to dollars.