I’ve got to hand it to General Aoun. He’s made one district in southern Lebanon worth watching…
By now, most will have heard about the unusual arrangement arrived at by Amal and the Free Patriotic Movement over the Christian district of Jezzine. After weeks (and weeks and weeks) of negotiations, Aoun announced that he couldn’t reach an agreement with his ally Nabih Berri over a joint list of three candidates, and so the two parties have decided to field separate lists in a spirit of “healthy competition”.
Why does this matter? After all, no matter which side wins, it’s going to be a gain for the opposition, right? Not necessarily. The creation of two opposition lists may split the vote in such a way that some other independent or March 14-friendly candidate can snatch a seat. This scenario, while unlikely, is still worth watching out for (as I’m sure M14 strategists are doing).
The most interesting thing about the Jezzine affair, to my mind, is what it reveals about: (a) the Free Patriotic Movement’s electoral strategy; (b) Michel Aoun’s confidence in his own popularity among Lebanon’s Christians; and (c) the barely hidden contempt that some FPM partisans feel toward their allies.
Strategically speaking, Aoun is pursuing a tack similar to what we see among many of the March 14 parties: intense competition even among coalition allies so as to maximize the size of one’s own parliamentary share. Had Aoun and Berri come to an agreement on Jezzine, the FPM would likely have gotten two of the district’s three seats, giving up one to Berri. Aoun’s decision to contest all three suggests that he is willing to gamble on the possibility of not winning any at all, which means that he must like his chances.
In 2005, Jezzine was part of the South II governorate which included the districts of Marjeyoun-Hasbaya and Nabatieh, so the Christian MPs of Jezzine were voted in by the governorate’s majority Shiite population. The Doha Accord replaced the larger governorate with the smaller qada’ and so Jezzine’s residents will be able to elect directly their own representatives this time around. Aoun has ruffled feathers in the past by referring to the new law as an opportunity to free Jezzine from “its occupation” [under Berri], and it looks like he is relishing the opportunity to show that his popularity with Lebanese Christians is not confined to the Maronite heartland of Mount Lebanon.
Turning to the final point, I find the Aounists’ reaction to Berri’s intransigence to be fascinating. The online forums are positively boiling over with animosity toward Amal in particular and the opposition in general. Here are a couple of striking examples:
The thing is, from Aakar to West Bekaa, FPM almost on it’s own is facing “7oukoumet Filtman” [the “Feltman government”], while almost all our allies are doing deals (from to Beirut 2 to West Beqaa to Aley) and giving “7oukoumet Filtman” seats right and left in order to “avoid sectarian conflicts” (i wonder what May 7 2008 is called).
Michel el Murr goes on air and curses the hell out of GMA [General Michel Aoun] and FPM and in the same interview he says “I coordinate everything i do with Berri”, while Berri doesnt reply to him, not even one of his MPs reply to Murr
Khalasna ba2a, we have done more than enough for the opposition w walla marra raba7na jmile, sarlon few months kell ma 7ada fata7 temmo mnesma3 “HA/Amal agreed on the 1960 law for GMA”, ma 7ada yirabe7na jmile, the 1960 law is nothing in front of the things GMA and FPM did since 2006 w walla marra raba7na jmile la 7adan
There is no such thing called opposition anymore, the so called centrists (Berri, Murr, Miqati, Michel Suliemen, Jumblat and the rest) are trying to reduce C&R’s numbers in the parliament. Prove me wrong
For those not fluent in Lebanese SMS dialect, the gist of this intervention is that the FPM has bent over backwards for its allies and has never once asked anything in return. Given that Aoun is shouldering the burden of coming up with all the seats to give the opposition a majority, this fellow is justifiably annoyed with the way that his party is getting nickled and dimed. Here’s another one:
1-if i can abuse my own batrak, clergy , church because they are against us
2-if i can stand to the whole western world , which we relate to in many many many ways
3-if i can defend visiting the syria and forgiving the nizam
4-if i can defend such filth as jamil al sayed becasue he was wrongly jailed
5-if i was ready to work against SLEIMAN FRANGIE IF WE HAD DISGAREED.
berri wa bay bay berri wa all his supporters means zilch to me.
PUT ON TOP OF THAT THE ALL MOU3ARADA…byeswou negle 3endde.
no one need his votes or anything from him,let him and ha vote against us
i do not gives a **** man, NEITHER DOES THE MAJORITY OF FPMers, go and ask them if you want, yalla go and ask.
IN 05 WE WERE ALL ALONE AND LET IT BE AGAIN…BLOODY MURDER.
you think we care
you think i care about this or that voting for us.
let us lose all zahle, baabda,anywhere ANYONE BE RABE7NA JMEILE.
when GENERAL said
walla zaman al tanazoul….he meant it.
LET ME SEE WHO REALLY NEEDS WHO IN LEBANON.
I WISH GENERAL WILL SIGN THAT MOUZAKARAT TAFAHOUM WITH THE TRIBUNAL , TOMORROW.
WLEK I JUST WISH THAT
LET ME SHOW berri his size and worth.
AKHH YA GENERAL, FOR ONCE BEHAVE LIKE THEM.PLEASEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE
Can I get an amen?! My faith has been restored. This is what I love about the FPM: they’re plucky, and principled as hell. This guy is basically saying that he has turned a blind eye to every unsavory aspect of being associated with the opposition (facing down the West, angering the Maronite patriarch, forgiving Syria, defending the four generals, etc.) while the opposition has given the FPM little in return. He issues a rhetorical plea to his leader to sign the Memorandum of Understanding on the Tribunal just to stick it to March 8. I haven’t seen anything so uplifting since Jumblatt dissed Geagea and Saad on YouTube. You go, angry FPM dude!
In case you’re wondering, this intra-opposition criticism rarely extends to Hizbullah. The FPM/HA relationship is very solid, on the level of both the leadership and the cadres. But one wonders what is likely to happen to March 8 should they win the election. Particularly if the FPM wins Jezzine (leaving Berri with as few as 11 seats) and Aoun presses on with his reform program, I don’t think it is that hard to imagine a scenario like the one the first commenter was describing: the quiet emergence of a ‘centrist’ block that works to keep the old corrupt “tarkibeh” intact.