Mitch Prothero has an interesting piece about the FPM-Hizbullah relationship in The National, in which he recounts a scene at a campaign rally where the Hizbullah partisans bussed in from al-Dahiya to provide a little multi-confessional je ne sais quoi got a little too Shiite for the taste of the Aounist crowd control officials. Here’s the relevant bit:
An hour before Michel Aoun, a former general and one of Lebanon’s most popular Christian leaders, was due to speak on Saturday night, his political advance team realised it had a crowd control problem.
Mr Aoun’s mostly upper-class party, the Free Patriotic Movement, bused in dozens of Shiite youths from Lebanon’s impoverished southern suburbs including Dahiya, but now found the cultural differences hard to handle. The teenagers began a chant that threatened to upset Mr Aoun’s traditional base…
Dozens of teenage boys waved Hizbollah flags and chanted “Allah, Nasrallah, and all of Dahiya” about an hour before Mr Aoun was due to take the stage. An organiser from the FPM immediately saw the sectarian nature of the chanting and politically problematic images that might upset Christian swing voters in the election’s most critical district.
But getting rid of the youths posed no easy problem. As they were hustled off the floor, an Aoun official confronted the teenagers in the car park as they continued chanting Hizbollah-themed slogans.
“You are acting in a terrible way. You must stop these slogans; you can’t chant about being Shiite here,” the frustrated official, who would not give his name, said to the group of teenagers.
When he stopped yelling at them, the crowd once again began chanting: “We are all Shiite, We are the Shiite.”
Now visibly annoyed, the official tried to force them further from the venue before the media noticed them.
“Just leave, go back to Dahiya; we don’t want you here,” the man shouted.
“Nasrallah, Nasrallah! No fear, No fear. All of Dahiya will turn into a Kalashnikov!” responded the group, pushing the rhetoric into even more dangerous territory.
“Back on the buses,” Aoun officials shouted. “We don’t need you here. They need you back in Dahiya!”
Ouch… I personally feel that there isn’t quite enough of this kind of unsentimental, on-the-ground journalism in the election coverage. Even if one is sympathetic to March 8 or 14, surely the warts are worth pointing out, no? Got to hand it to Mitch (despite the fact that he has managed to scoop me as I put the finishing touches on a long piece about the Aounists for this Friday’s Review section in The National. Stay tuned!)