Free Patriotic Movement, Lebanon

FPM Engages in Post-Election Soul-Searching

The preliminary results of the first round of Lebanon’s municipal elections are in. Predictably, all sides are claiming victory, with Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement tabulating their wins at around 51% of all council seats, while Samir Geagea has confidently announced that a majority of Christians in the Mount Lebanon region support the March 14th alliance.

A dour mood prevails over in the Orange Room (the party’s online forum), strikingly reminiscent of the somber round of soul-searching that took place after the 2009 elections, when the opposition failed to win a commanding victory — as many pollsters had predicted. I often wonder whether this kind of discontent will ever bubble up from the rank-and-file and have some effect on the party’s broader political strategy. It’s hard to say, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the 2010 results create opportunities for new voices to be heard in Rabiyeh.

There are two standard narratives that one encounters when speaking to FPMers about the state of their party. The optimistic activists survey the last few years and see nothing short of a meteoric rise. Before 2005, the FPM’s leadership was in exile and its local members were consistently harrassed by the Lebanese and Syrian security forces. The party had no seats in parliament, no ministers, and only a handful of municipality members.

Today, the Syrian army has left Lebanon and the FPM is a force to be reckoned with. It oversees a 27-seat bloc in Parliament, five prominent ministries, and, as of this election, hundreds of municipality seats. Not bad for five years’ work.

The second narrative is far more cynical. The FPM, according to this reading, has become like every other Lebanese political party: corrupt, nepotistic, beholden to moneyed interests and foreign powers. The alliance with Hezbollah was viewed by some folks as a ground-breaking moment in Lebanon’s “post-sectarian” history but it was also regarded by just as many supporters as a necessary evil to make Aoun president. When this bid failed, the warm alliance with Syria became a source of disillusionment for those who viewed the relationship as purely political.

Meanwhile, the reform agenda that the FPM has always championed seems to have become bogged down by its political calculations. While it made a strong bid for instituting proportional representation in the municipal elections law, the party’s alliances with former nemeses like Michel al-Murr and the Kata’eb in various municipalities in Mount Lebanon have embittered many supporters. The FPM has also backpedaled on abolishing confessionalism in Lebanon, an issue which has strong support among university students and young professionals (the source of the party’s dynamism).

Perhaps the most persistent complaint, though, is the notion that the party is turning into a “House of Aoun”. Currently, many of the FPM’s most prominent figures are directly related to Michel Aoun. Gebran Bassil, the Minister of Energy, is his son-in-law, and Alain Aoun (his nephew) is an MP in Baabda. The head of OTV, Roy al-Hashim, is another son-in-law, and Aoun’s daughter Mireille is the head of Aoun’s political bureau. Many wonder about the fate of the party after the General, who is 75 years old, goes to that big barracks in the sky. Even if the FPM is left in the hands of Aoun’s relatives, can they be expected to pursue his current political line, or will the party begin to break apart into competing factions?

In my opinion, the FPM is an important political force in Lebanon, and one which has the potential to play a major role in pushing a reform agenda. I realize that there aren’t that many FPMers who comment on this blog, but I’m hoping that some of you may elect to join a stock-taking conversation about what is next for the party.

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14 thoughts on “FPM Engages in Post-Election Soul-Searching

  1. In all accounts FPM not only lost but got crushed. Its ‘allies” abandoned FPM’s ticket in Jbeil and in Beirut. Aoun’s antics have ran its course. Before we put any faith in any political party’s platform we should closely inspect its actions.

    You are correct in the nepotism part. Let’s take this a bit further and examine on how Aoun’s relatives have all turned instant millionaires with palatial castles for residences and multi million dollar condos!

    Christians seem to be the only sect where “free competition” is allowed! HA announced that it’s boycotting Beirut elections because FM is not including “opposition” sunni members! How rediculous is that? We saw what HA and Amal did when Kamal Assad tried to run in the parliamentary elections last year. Have HA or Amal ever allowed other Shiites voices to be heard. Remember what happened to mufti Amin of soor…

    Posted by danny | May 5, 2010, 2:10 pm
  2. **Christians as a religious entity (all sects combined)….sorry for the faux pas

    Posted by danny | May 5, 2010, 2:12 pm
  3. Via Mideastwire:

    Hezbollah’s and Amal’s public surprise Aoun in Jbeil
    May 4 2010, Al-Akhbar

    “Did the Shi’i votes in Jbeil flip the results of the municipal election battle there? This question was launched in Jbeil, the city that witnessed a battle deemed as political, reaching the different Metn towns where the Aounist movement relies on Shi’i votes to enhance its chances of winning; however, [the Aounist movement] was surprised as unexpected results came out of the voting ballots. Yesterday the Aounists blamed this on Hezbollah and the Amal Movement, which are currently studying the results in order to understand the nature of the choices made by the Shi’i voters the day before yesterday, especially as surprises were not only confined to the multi-sectarian towns but also extended to some Shi’i villages mainly Bashtilda-Fdar.

    “While waiting for the official announcement of the results expected today at noon, the numbers of the electoral apparatuses indicate that the difference between the last winner on the list of “a better Jbeil,” Mohammad al-Mawla, and the first looser in the list of “loyalty to Jbeil,” Jean-Louis Kordahi, only amounted to 200 votes. That is why, questions arise about the surprising Shi’i and Armenian votes. Sources indicate that had the Shi’i and Armenian votes – amounting to 664 – been distributed at a ratio of 70% for Kordahi’s list and 30% for Ziad Al-Hawwat’s list, Kordahi’s list would have won two thirds of the seats.

    “…[The Amal Movement] refuses the politicization of these numbers for objective reasons. The first reason is that the Movement’s decision is clear in regards to committing to the alliance with General Michel Aoun. However, the problem lies, according to the [electoral] apparatus, in the absence of organizational communication with Shi’i voters in the city of Jbeil, unlike the situation in Caza’s villages. In addition, family-related choices differ between municipalities and parliamentary [elections]. Sources highlight the importance of not ignoring the Aounist confusion that took place during the preparation phase forn the elections and the fact that [the Aounists] did not decide their position early. [The sources] refused to hold Shi’i voters responsible for the list’s defeat “because even if all the Shi’is had voted for it, it would not have won.”

    “The sources of Hezbollah’s electoral apparatus read the numbers differently. They stress the complete commitment to what was agreed upon with Kordahi. “We promised 175 to 200 votes and we have committed to that.” A source close to Hezbollah tackles the social dimensions of the Shi’i votes based on the Jbeil results, where he asserts that parliamentary [elections] are different from politics. He refers to the “mine field” that the party walks in attempting to maintain families’ contentment, which is not always obtainable. [He adds:] “We obtained 97% of the Shi’i votes in the parliamentary elections, but we do not expect a similar rate in the municipalities….””

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | May 5, 2010, 2:32 pm
  4. Also via Mideastwire:

    “Municipal elections: an occasion to see the paradoxes in the community…”

    On May 3, the pro-parliamentary majority Hariri-owned Al-Mustaqbal newspaper carried the following opinion piece by Wissam Saade: “The municipal elections restore the state of the “family” since familial calculations prevail over or intertwine with sectarian, denominational or geographic belongings, as well as with national choices and regional favoritism. The paradoxes resulting from this intertwinement are countless, some of which give the impression that politicization is very present among the Lebanese, while some others give the opposite impression and reveal the absence of the meaning of politics in Lebanon. At the same time, everyone is aware – one way or the other – that the electoral results will be “recounted” on a political basis and will be interpreted in accordance with the calculations of victory and loss on more comprehensive levels, such as the March 8 and March 14 duo for example.

    “This means that the influence of the familial calculations is “unstable” before and after the elections, thus prevailing at times and dissipating at others to the point where one might think it will never return again. All of the above reproduces the question about the “basic nucleus” toward which the Lebanese community eventually turns. Is it the individual, the family, the wider family, the clan, the town, the region, the sect, denomination, profession or the social faction? As we previously said, the answer provided by the municipal elections restores the status of the “family” but not any “family”. It is certainly not the “household,” but [it is] not the “clan” either. It is also not a middle rank between the household and the clan. Moreover, when we talk about the key role played by “familial calculations” in the municipal elections, this does not mean that these calculations serve a collective voting trend within each family in favor of this or that team…

    “The municipal elections are an arena for the struggle over who enjoys the right to represent this or that family, but at the same time [it is] an arena for the struggle between this family and the other families… Therefore, the “family” which enjoys a role in the municipal elections is neither the “household” nor the “clan” nor an entity between the two. It is a purely “political family.” After we used to limit the expression “political family” to a small group of families that enjoyed a parliamentary representation for a generation or two, this expression was generalized following the municipal elections of the “second republic” to include all of Lebanon. The entire country can be divided into “political families,” while each of the latter – from the smallest to the biggest town in Lebanon – is conveying all the Lebanese paradoxes.

    “Indeed, no family can choose its representative for “familial seminars” or municipal councils alone, since all the other families must get involved in making that choice and in picking the representatives of the other families. At times, some mix the familial calculations with partisan, sectarian, national and regional calculations, while at other times, some insist on the autonomy of familial calculations. Nonetheless, the question on the table remains about the municipal position of political families and their role in producing (or hindering the production) of social antibiotics in the face of a reality governed by “the absence of security equality” between the Lebanese.” – Al-Mustaqbal, Lebanon
    Click here for source

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | May 5, 2010, 2:43 pm
  5. It will be one of those weak parties that are barely seen, one of those omar karamis, wi2am wahhabs or talal arsalans, just left there as a reminder of the failures of gma and his betrayal of the people of lebanon

    Posted by fadi | May 5, 2010, 5:05 pm
  6. Entre victoires illusoires et données réelles…

    Par Scarlett HADDAD –

    Comme après chaque échéance électorale, le flou le plus total règne et chaque partie s’approprie les chiffres et les transforme en données subjectives. Quant aux analyses et aux spéculations, elles sont légion et varient elles aussi selon les protagonistes. Mais une des constantes de toutes ces échéances, c’est que depuis 2005, elles tournent toujours autour du chef du CPL, le général Michel Aoun. Tantôt « l’homme à abattre », tantôt le « tsunami », tantôt « l’allié difficile » et tantôt encore « l’homme qui refuse les compromis », il est au cœur de toutes les interprétations et des enjeux. D’ailleurs, au lendemain des élections municipales au Mont-Liban, les journaux axaient leurs titres sur les résultats de ses partisans « Défaite à Jbeil, échec à Sin el-Fil, etc. ou encore succès à Hadeth. » Au point qu’un partisan du CPL s’est demandé pourquoi parle-t-on de défaite à Jbeil et de simple succès à Hadeth et qui est le gagnant de Jbeil et le vaincu de Hadeth ?

    Au-delà des questions de forme, les partisans du CPL brandissent les résultats officiels pour démentir les rumeurs sur une défaite aouniste. Ils affirment ainsi que sur les 254 municipalités du Mont-Liban auxquelles le CPL s’est intéressé (les autres ayant des électeurs soient druzes, sunnites ou chiites), il a remporté 127 conseils municipaux et 815 membres de conseils municipaux. En contrepartie, 98 municipalités (toujours sur 254), ne regroupent pas de membres du CPL et treize ont été raflées par des indépendants, alors que 16 ont fait l’objet d’une entente générale. Sur base de ces chiffres officiels, les partisans du général Aoun affirment qu’ils ont ainsi remporté plus de 51 % des municipalités du Mont-Liban dans lesquelles ils ont présenté des candidats. Pour un mouvement qui en 2004 travaillait clandestinement, car les autres partis n’osaient pas nouer des alliances avec lui, c’est tout de même une certaine victoire… D’autant que les partisans du CPL affirment que pour la première fois ils ont désormais un pied dans la plupart des municipalités du Mont-Liban.

    Mais ces résultats globalement satisfaisants, selon les partisans du CPL, ne cachent pas l’amertume engendrée par certaines batailles comme celle de Jbeil. Selon les sources proches de ce courant, celui-ci a dû faire face dans cette localité à plusieurs facteurs hostiles imprévus. C’est à Jbeil, selon ces sources, qu’il y a eu le plus d’achats de voix et de pressions diverses, exercées notamment par des services officiels, mais le plus dur a été aussi la défection (pour ne pas utiliser un terme plus dur) des alliés. Les sources proches du CPL montrent ainsi que deux tiers des voix chiites de cette localité sont allées à la liste adverse, présidée par Ziad Hawat, ainsi que la majorité des voix arméniennes. Or, selon les chiffres officiels, l’écart des voix entre le dernier de la liste Hawat et le premier de la liste de l’ancien ministre Jean-Louis Cardahi est de 320 voix, ce qui montre qu’avec les voix chiites et les voix arméniennes, toute la liste appuyée par le CPL aurait été élue. Comment expliquer cette défection et signifie-t-elle que la fameuse alliance dite du 8 Mars est en train de s’effriter ?

    Les sources proches du CPL veulent limiter la signification et la portée de cette bataille. Elles affirment seulement que les Arméniens ont leurs intérêts et ils préfèrent avoir de bonnes relations avec toutes les parties, selon la politique qu’ils ont suivie depuis des années. C’est ainsi qu’ils ont partagé leurs voix entre les deux listes, soucieux de ne pas incommoder la présidence de la République. Les sources proches du CPL affirment comprendre cette démarche, mais elles ajoutent qu’elles auraient préféré en être averties à l’avance, car dans les élections municipales, chaque voix compte. En ce qui concerne les voix chiites, la situation est plus délicate, d’autant que les adversaires du général Aoun utilisent cette donnée pour montrer que sa grande erreur a été de s’allier au Hezbollah sans tenir compte des véritables sentiments de la rue chrétienne. Selon les partisans de cette théorie, le Hezbollah a sciemment donné deux tiers des voix chiites à la liste Hawat car il préfère étendre ses alliances à la présidence, puisque le général Aoun est acquis et n’a plus d’ailleurs d’autre choix que de respecter le document d’entente signé avec lui. Les sources proches du CPL rejettent totalement cette analyse et estiment que les voix chiites qui ont voté en faveur de la liste Hawat ne sont pas celles du Hezbollah mais du mouvement Amal et de chiites indépendants, qui ont leurs propres considérations et leurs intérêts.

    L’alliance avec le Hezbollah,selon ces sources, est toujours solide et celui-ci est un allié de confiance. D’ailleurs, ces mêmes sources notent que le scénario s’est reproduit dans la capitale, où le Tachnag et Amal ont rejoint la liste de « L’unité de Beyrouth », alors que le Hezbollah a préféré la boycotter en guise de solidarité avec le CPL. Mais même avec cette explication, la question évidente reste la suivante : « Y aurait-il effectivement des lézardes dans le fameux bloc du 8 Mars ? » Tout dépend des enjeux des batailles, précisent les parties concernées. S’il s’agit de grandes options stratégiques, le 8 Mars fait front commun, mais les municipales n’ont pas une portée politique déterminante pour justifier une mobilisation totale des partisans. C’est pourquoi chaque partie membre du bloc a une certaine liberté de manœuvre et les enjeux sont purement internes.

    Il n’en reste pas moins que le mouvement Amal a pris sa revanche du CPL après les élections législatives à Jezzine ; le Tachnag, pour sa part, semble avoir pris un peu ses distances, même si officiellement la coordination reste totale, et à Zahlé, l’ancien député et ministre Élias Skaff fait cavalier seul. Les partisans du CPL ne semblent pas dérangés par cette nouvelle conjoncture. Aoun n’a pas voulu mettre Skaff en difficulté à Zahlé, ajoutent ces sources, en se contentant de présenter un candidat unique, mais il compte mener les batailles dans tous les villages chrétiens de la Békaa. Il aura aussi ses candidats dans les villages chrétiens du Sud et dans certaines localités du Nord, tout comme il mène la bataille des moukhtars à Beyrouth. Au total, il espère avoir des membres de conseils municipaux sur l’ensemble du territoire libanais et commencer ainsi à tisser sa toile dans les petites cellules de l’action publique après avoir été longtemps banni ou exilé. Alors, pâlie l’orange ? Pas si vite, répondent ses partisans, qui affirment que leurs adversaires cherchent toujours à se cacher derrière des victoires illusoires, occultant les données réelles. Pour le reste, il sera toujours temps après les élections de faire le point sur les alliances.

    Posted by j.bamford | May 6, 2010, 9:48 am
  7. FPM is Now Free Patriotic Metanoia, guys it’s about time, I think Abou Jamra and Co are already on that path, it’s never too late ! شو بدكم عزيمه ؟؟

    Posted by Abdo | May 8, 2010, 2:10 am
  8. Abdo said:
    “FPM…Free Patriotic Metanoia,”

    That is one of the best lines that I have heard in a long time. Tnx Abdo,lol.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | May 8, 2010, 1:18 pm
  9. Israeli-arabs at war with Lebanon.

    Lebanon takes the lead in their hard-fought battle…

    Posted by Akbar Palace | May 10, 2010, 10:52 am
  10. The Sunday issue of the NYT carried two stories that illustrate the wide chasm between Lebanon?Arab world and Israel.
    The Sunday magazine carries a 2-3 page advertisemsnt about the growth and stability of Lebanon that was sponsored by a few organizations. Obviously the portion about the AUB and its MBA program was good . But then the other co sponsors were an IT company whose capital , as per its own web site, is $1,2 million and that has a 100+ employees. Another sponsor was a car dealership for Honda and a few other brands. Why is a car distributor promoting their achievments in the NYT is beyond me. And a third company was the owner of the Sky Bar whose mission is to change foreign impressions about Lebanon through his bars and restaurants.
    The page one story in the Business section was about Teva, a pharmaceutical company that has become the largest in filler of prescription drugs in the US and whose operations are considered to be the most efficient and in the field. Teva has a market cap of $55 billion and is an Israeli firm.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | May 10, 2010, 6:23 pm
  11. At least we won the Hummus & Falafel challenge.

    WTG Lebanon!!!

    Posted by Ras Beirut | May 10, 2010, 9:53 pm
  12. Ghassan

    Check out the profile of Haim Saban in this week’s New Yorker.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | May 11, 2010, 9:16 am
  13. QN
    Thanks for the tip; I wouldn’t have read it had you not recommended it.
    Haim Saban has it right. There isn’t much that is more powerful than the newsmedia in the modern world.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | May 11, 2010, 12:30 pm


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