What Does the Gemayel Loss in the Metn Mean?

Camille Khoury declares victoryCamille Khoury, the unknown candidate backed by opposition leader Gen. Michel Aoun, beat former President Amin Gemayel in the crucial Metn by-election by a very narrow margin. Interior Minister Hassan Sabei, announcing the results at around 4:00 a.m. Monday, declared Khoury the winner by a 418-vote edge. He received 39,534 votes against Gemayel's 39,116. Turnout was 46 percent.

In another election in Beirut, pro-government candidate Mohammed Amin Itani easily won a Sunni seat in parliament that came open when lawmaker Walid Eido was killed in a car bombing in June. The opposition did not officially sponsor a candidate to contest Itani and Shiites were asked not to vote. As a result his opponent came a distant second with 3,556 votes as opposed to 22,988 votes for Itani. Turnout was low at about 19 percent.

How are we to understand the results of this vote?

Lebanon's Prime Minister Fouad Siniora claimed the results were a victory for democracy. In theory this should be good for America, but Washington does not see it as such, because the Bush administration wanted a March 14 victory. President Bush considers the March 14 coalition an ally in the contest for the Middle East, in which the West has pit itself against the "axis of evil" member, Iran, and its ally Syria.

General Aoun's party, the Free Patriotic Movement, or FPM, is allied with Lebanon's Shiite parties. They call for better relations with Damascus and an end to rule by Lebanon's traditional zaims. They also insist on new parliamentary elections before the deputies vote for Lebanon's new president, which should take place before late November when President Emile Lahood's term ends. Amin Gemayel's defeat by a relative unknown is significant because it will bolster opposition claims that the March 14 ruling coalition no longer represents public sentiment. This is the main justification for the opposition's refusal to hold presidential elections before a new parliament is elected.

Also, Amin Gemayel was not just any Maronite; he was Mr. Maronite. The Gemayel family dominated right wing Maronite politics for much of the 20th century. Pierre Gemayel, Amin's father, built the Kataeb, or Phalange paramilitary force in the 1930s. During the Civil War, the Phalange turned out to be the toughest Christian militia. It was commanded by Bashir Gemayel, Amin's brother. When Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982 in alliance with the Phalange, Bashir was elected President, but was assassinated by a member of the SSNP before taking office. Amin Gemayel became president in his stead. A little over four months ago, Amin was invited to the White House to meet with President George Bush. This unusual invitation was interpreted by some to indicate that the Bush administration was sounding out Amin as a possible candidate for the Lebanese presidency. Amin's loss in the by-election will cast a long shadow over any possible run for the presidency in November. It would also seem to mark a nadir in the fortunes of the Gemayel clan.

The opposition painted the win as a rejection of Siniora's coalition. ''Metn democratically defeats Amin Gemayel and the (parliament) majority with him,'' the pro-opposition daily As-Safir said.

Associated Press began its story with "The government suffered a blow Monday when a little-known opposition candidate defeated a former president in a tense parliament by-election that showed the divisions among Lebanon's once-dominant Christians."

Amin Gemayel, the losing candidate, ran as the anti-Syrian. He suggested that those who would vote for Aoun were against Lebanon and tantamount to traitors. "Are all these political parties that support the Free Patriotic Movement doing so free of charge, just to please General Aoun? Or do they have other motives and are there other allies trying to regain the Syrian role on Lebanese soil?" He also argued that Syria had assassinated his son, Pierre Gemayel, whose parliamentary seat was being contested. Thus, a vote for his opponent was a vote for Syrian domination of Lebanon and for murder. It must be remembered that no evidence links Syria to the murder of Gemayel's son or the murder of Walid Eido. Lebanese authorities have produced, however, considerable evidence and testimony that both parliamentarians were assassinated by Lebanese extremist Sunni groups.

The March 14th's pro-Maronite strategy led Naharnet, a March 14 outlet, to take consolation from the results by announcing, "but the anti-Syrian runner [Amin Gemayel] reaped a vast majority of Maronite votes." 

L'Orient le Jour claimed "les chrétiens non arméniens se prononcent clairement en faveur d’Amine Gemayel" and explained that because Aoun did not get 70% of the Christian vote, as he had previously claimed he would, he was in fact the loser as his bubble had burst. Its headline ran: Gemayel : Le scrutin du Metn a prouvé que le soutien de Aoun dans les régions chrétiennes est en net recul."

Walid Jumblatt, the Druze leader, backed this interpretation, claiming, "Amin Gemayel has won the political battle. This is a political victory for March 14. The legend of Michel Aoun as the sole representative of the Christians is over. Michel Aoun has fallen politically despite all his alliances."

Aoun rejected that interpretation. He insists that he has a majority of Christian votes and backing from the majority of Lebanese.

Members of the Lebanese Forces, backer's of Amin Gemayel, accused Aoun supporters of being lesser or bad Lebanese. (Ouwet), a forum for Lebanese Forces members, posted the following on the day of the elections:

Bye Bye Aoun ?  

Who would have thought ?? Where are the 70% ya General ?? Where are the 20000+ votes u won with ??

8000 Armenians, at least 10000 to 15000 btw Murr and SSNP and naturalized voters …

This leaves the so-called General with barely 15000 votes !

Thank you Matn people for destroying this virus …
Thank you for proving Sheikh Pierre right …

 Following the announcement of Gemayel's defeat, the same site responded with a poem:

So let me sum up the result of this election
You are miles from being the Christian selection

Holding hands with snoopies and baathies to vote
And some dead Armenians and a Syrian goat

Gemayel had refused to admit defeat until official results were announced and demanded a rerun of the vote in one mainly Armenian region where he claimed voter fraud. 

Friday Lunch Club, a blog written by an Aoun supporter, was irate at the anti-Armenian language used in the election campaign. In his post entitled, Lebanon's Armenians face a new "verbal genocide," he explained that: "[Armenians] were called "intruders upon Lebanon's realities", "ghetto dwellers" and "ingrates." He concluded, "Lebanon's Armenians face an onslaught of M14 incitements."

Amin Gemayel later said that he did not mean to insult anyone, adding that ''Tashnak [the Armenian party] is a Lebanese party. No one doubts that.''

Greek Orthodox Lebanese also largely voted for Aoun and against the Gemayel clan's traditional domination of the Metn and Christian Lebanon. Michel Murr, a wealthy Greek Orthodox entrepreneur who was Interior Minister of Lebanon for much of the 1990s, threw his considerable support behind the Free Patriotic Movement. He dominates the Metn town of Btighrin and his son is married to President Emile Lahoud's daughter. The Lebanese based Syrian Social Nationalist Party also backs Aoun. It was founded by the Greek Orthodox Lebanese Antoun Saade and its membership is dominated by Greek Orthodox. The Greek Orthodox have chafed under Maronite domination since the founding of Lebanon.

The deep rootedness of the Maronite – Greek Orthodox rivalry was driven home to me when I visited the Wadi Nasara a few weeks ago. The Wadi Nasara, or Christian Valley, is the southern most region of Syria's coast that abuts northern Lebanon. It is the only region of Syria where Christians form a compact minority. The Greek Orthodox of the region have always looked more toward Tripoli than Damascus for education, employment, and religious leadership. I asked elders of the region, who had all been members of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party since their high-school days, why the French had not included the Wadi Nasara in Greater Lebanon when it was first cut out of Syria. They told me: "The Maronites of Lebanon did not want us. They were frightened that the Greek Orthodox might become the majority and rule Lebanon. They insisted we become part of Syria." Many Lebanese Greek Orthodox still look to Syria as a counter-weight to Maronite domination and disregard. Aoun has promised that he will end the time-honored domination of Lebanon's traditional zaims. This resonates with many Lebanese. The Gemayel clan is one of the most notable of the zaim households. 

"The big winner today is Syria," said Michael Young, an opinion editor at the Daily Star, a Lebanese newspaper. Several days ago, Young wrote that Syria was working to undermine Aoun in order to divide and weaken Christians.

Syria is not the big winner of the elections, although it will be pleased by the results. The real winner was the Lebanese opposition. Michel Aoun has demonstrated that Christians and Shiites can ally to become an electoral force in Lebanon – one that can perhaps challenge the traditional Sunni-Maronite alliance that has dominated the Lebanese state for much of its short history.

This suggests that the US policy of insisting that only the March 14 coalition stands for democracy in Lebanon is misguided. As Lebanon's demographic composition changes and the coalitions this makes possible evolve, it will be a mistake if US policy does not evolve as well. Augustus Richard Norton has written a fine article explaining why the US should reconsider its one-sided policy, which will only continue to divide Lebanon.

Comments (42)

why-discuss said:

Despite the powerful theatrical campaign, whose high emotionnality and focus on martyrdom looked more Shia than Maronite, Amin Gemayel, the zaim of Bekfaya, the ex-president was beaten by an unknown candidate of a party who has little family roots in the area. He should have listen to Aoun and present another candidate who may have had more chances… Is the 14 March people dreading even more a new election where they may be swept out as well?
Will the US will now adjust to the new reality? they have the habit of holding on to loosing horses until the last minute.

August 6th, 2007, 9:45 pm


ausamaa said:

“they have the habit of holding on to loosing horses until the last minute.”

Who do you mean? The Bush Admin, or the Siniora 14 Feb crowd?

August 6th, 2007, 9:58 pm


Fares said:

It means that Michel Kilo and his friends should be released from Syrian jails ya habibi Joshua! Alex could you help me here?


August 6th, 2007, 10:16 pm


Enlightened said:

This election given the parliament paralysis actually means nothing! There is no point in over analysing. The new deputies will not be able to participate in parliament, nor the election results will be acknowledged by the morally debunkt head of state Lahoud.

What is interesting however is that Murr swung his weight behind the FPM, given that he asked his father in law to resign almost 3 years ago! Why the back flip has Murr forseen his own mortality flash before his very eyes? The only benefit to come out of this is that a powerful Zaim has been wounded,( Gemayel has the stigma of corruption and stealing millions from the state when he was president) and that can only be positive, the morally corrupt sectarian system has been dealt a blow.

This election was just a prelude to the real show down over the presidency, take a seat boys, enjoy the squabbling, the real theatrics have not started yet!

August 7th, 2007, 1:20 am


why-discuss said:

Wounded is a gentle word… I would say Amin Genmayel with all the aura of his ex-presidency has suffered a serious humiliation and it is so pathetic and ridiculous how the pro-14 march leaders and their journalists are trying desperately to find all kind of excuses to make it look like a victory!!!

Ausama, I meant the US. They always hang on their ‘proteges’ until they see that the wind is turning, then they just dump them, i.e The shah of Iran and others ‘proteges’. Feltam was openly in favor of the election, and went against Gemayel, who tried desperately to stop it, probably knowing that he was going to loose. In view of the possible rapprochement betwen the US and Iran on maintaining order in Iraq, the growing threat of Al Qaeda in Lebanon that could reach the Lebanon-Israeli border, the priorities of the US may be shifting. The 14 march group got what they’ve been thriving for, the international tribunal, I wonder if they’ll get anything else.

August 7th, 2007, 1:39 am


Enlightened said:

Just found a interesting article on the Murr’s and past electoral strategies in the Metn;

Read it it is interesting;


August 7th, 2007, 4:48 am


youngsyria said:

this artical surprised me.. sleem alhus on saudi alarabiya!!!


August 7th, 2007, 7:09 am


Leb Christian said:

Aoun got plastered with this election. If you look at the figures, in 2005, his candidate reaped 63% of the vote with some 55000 votes, without forming any alliances with the likes of the baath, the SSNP, and Michel el Murr.

In 2007, his candidate barely got 50% of the vote with some 35000 votes, but with forming alliances with Hezballah (2000 votes), Baath, SSNP, Michel el Murr, Tachnag and the naturalized.

This is a huge step back, and evidence that Aoun has lost significant support among Christians. Furthermore, when you count the votes that are not “acquired” by alliances, he has about 20000 votes, so basically 30% of the Christians.

All in all, Aoun won a seat in Parliament, and lost the Presidency, and that’s a trade off many Lebanese including myself were very happy to make.

August 7th, 2007, 7:58 am


Leb Christian said:

Gemayel on the other hand, while taking a loss, actually showed that he has the Christian vote. He lost a seat in parliament but emerged as a new Christian leader (as much as I despise him).

In 2005, his candidate got some 35000 votes, and the seat was not really contested. This year, despite the alliances of Aoun facing him, he got the same votes as the Aoun candidate( minus 418).

But that margin is well below the 2000 Shiites that votes for Aoun, and the several thousand naturalized that were paid to vote for Aoun.

So yes, despite my dislike for Gemayel, he managed to end the myth of Aoun being the sole Christian leader, and cornered Aoun.

August 7th, 2007, 8:02 am


Offended said:

The ‘Leb Christian’ on the other hand, has failed to warn you all that his comments were copied and pasted from the ‘Ouwet’ forum…

August 7th, 2007, 8:45 am


Offended said:

The Israelis are apparently worried.
For first time since Iron Curtain’s fall, Russia to set up naval base on Syrian soil
Read full article here

August 7th, 2007, 10:51 am


Liz said:

Amine Gemayel did not get the majority of Christian votes (Unless one counts the Greek Orthodox and the Armenians as heretics). He only got the voices of the separatists Maronites.
Anyway this is an opportunity for Aoun and Gemayel to reconsider drafting a common realistic political program away from the hardliner militaristic Geagea.
BTW: Elias Murr is no longer the President’s son in law.

August 7th, 2007, 12:30 pm


Antoun said:


A sound summary of the by-election, the Gemayel dynasty, and the Christian rivalries. Not so different from my own summary on my blog, but it’s more credible coming from a Westerner. No one can accuse you of bias or belonging to a particular faction.

I greatly appreciated your analysis of the inter-Christian rivalries, which surfaced during the campaign and indeed throughout the weekend.

From personal experience, I am a Lebanese Greek Orthodox with a Maronite mother from a Kataeb Beiruti family and an Orthodox father from the SSNP region of Koura. Bringing both these families together has had encountered some turbulence over the decades, but it has survived nonetheless. Politics is one subject that simply is not discussed when both families come together. Of course my mother “converted” to the SSNP when she married my father, but her family remains staunchly Kataeb with a staunchly right-wing, Maronite ‘superiority’ complex.

Having eyes into both worlds was invaluable to me as a youngster growing up. It became aware to me that underneath this tense and bitter SSNP-Kataeb rivalry was an underlying resentment between the Orthodox and the Maronites. The Orthodox have tended to focus on their “Eastern” character, perhaps as a result of 1000 years of defiance to Rome and the West, whereas the Maronites have always emphasised their Western links. I believe this culminated in the two leading divergent paths when the Ottomans left and the Allies entered. The Orthodox desired to embrace their “Eastern” heritage by embarking on an endeavour to create a nation that highlighted such distinctive characteristics, whereas the Maronites obviously went in the opposite direction with the desire of escaping the very Eastern world the Orthodox cherished.

Of course, that’s not to say that all Orthodox are one side of the fence and the Maronites on the other. Definitely you’ll find Orthodox who support parties like the LF, Ahrar and the Kataeb, just as you’ll find Maronites who support the SSNP (the previous leader of the SSNP was a Maronite and figures such as Gibran Khalil Gibran were supportive of a greater Syrian nation).

But even when you do find, for example, Orthodox who support the LF/Kataeb, the person is looked upon as supporting the “Maronite” path of politics. I assume a similar image would be portrayed a l’envers of a Maronite who supported the SSNP.

Perhaps I’ve been lucky in that I have a mixed family so I can’t fall into this sectarian trap of choosing one over the other.

Obviously with the power of the Christians having diminished of late, a greater emphasis on a single “Christian” role (which is Aoun today) has formulated in place of a more sectarian and conflicting approach. But as we witnessed on the weekend, the old rivalry does occasionally like to flare up.

August 7th, 2007, 1:17 pm


Sophia said:

Thanks for this analysis. I am going to link to it on my blog.
From one editorial to another Michael Young is not afraid of contradicting himself time and again.
As for what is going on in most Lebanese blogs and the declarations of some Christian Zaims and Jumblatt, from blatant racism to active denial of the Metn election result, they make me ashamed to be Lebanese and Maronite. I am a Maronite who grew up in a Greek orthodox environment and I know very well how the Greek orthodox of Syria, former Greek Orthodox of ‘Lebanon’ must feel. Lebanon should be like Syria, proud of its rich religious mosaic.

August 7th, 2007, 1:28 pm


Leb Christian said:

– Offended – None of my comments come from the “ouwet” forum. My comments are basically the analysis of every political analyst who is not aligned with the opposition, and many of the neutral political analysts. You want to give the impression to the readers that my opinion somehow fall within the range of the opinions of the right wing Christian fanatics in Lebanon. You obviously have failed miserably.

August 7th, 2007, 2:10 pm


Sami D said:

I extracted the following interesting remarks on the Gmayyel & others’ outburst against Arminians, from As’ad Abukhalil’s blog (http://angryarab.blogspot.com/).

As’ad Abukhalil wrote:

– “what is quite amazing about the racist outburst against Armenians by Amin Gemayyel and others is that they talk about Armenians as if they are not Christians. So for them, there are superior Christians (Maronites), and the inferior Christians (all others.) I am still waiting for a Western media source to mention something about the anti-Armenian outburst. Imagine if those racist words were uttered by Hasan Nasrallah or Bashshar Al-Asad: they would be on the front page of New York Times and Washington Post.

– “Phalangist hostility toward the Armenians in Lebanon is not new. In the late 1970s, when the Lebanese Forces imposed conscription on the Armenians, the Armenians resisted. They did not want to be dragged into the civil war. The Phalangist militias then imposed a siege of Armenian areas, and persecuted them until they reached a deal.

– “[Walid Jumblat] called on Armenians in Lebanon “to take into consideration the right of the Lebanese people to self-determination.” So Jumblat now officially excludes the Armenians in Lebanon from the category of the Lebanese people.

– “Those Armenians are as Lebanese as anybody else: and some of the Gemayyel family members (including Amin’s own father) have roots in Egypt but nobody questions their loyalty to Lebanon (except me, of course). The Armenians have become part and parcel of the fabric of Lebanese society: but make no mistake about it. This is a fundamentally racist and sectarian country. And the conservative Tashnaq party, the most influential Armenian party in Lebanon, has been an ally of the Phalanges since the 1950s. Yet, today, once the Gemayyel family realized that the results were not in their favor, they lashed out against all Armenians in Lebanon, and my instigate a rampage against innocent Armenians especially that Lebanese Forces goons are out on the streets. There were direct threats made on Lebanese TV against Armenians: key March 14 figure (former candidate from Matn), Gabriel Al-Murr, described the Armenians as “parasites.” And then Amin Gemayyel in a rally in Bikfayya also lashed out against Armenians in Lebanon and called them “tari’in” (has the meaning of “intruders” or temporary passers). The Armenians have been quite unhappy with the marginalization of their role by the person who started the marginalization of Christians and Armenians in Lebanon (with the support of the Syrian regime): Rafiq Hariri who instigated a split within Tashnaq. This is why Tashnqa moved toward Michel `Awn.

– “The racist Hariri rag, Al-Mustaqbal, headlines that ‘the Armenian flag’ was raised in (the predominantly Armenian) Burj Hammud. The rag did not notice that Lebanese Forces convoys raised the US flag all day yesterday.”

August 7th, 2007, 2:50 pm


why-discuss said:

Are maronites part of a superior race?

How sad that the lebanese of armenian origin are treated this way. Truly it is a shame that the Gemayel and their maronite supporters feel they are a ‘superior’ form of christians and they are the ‘true’ lebanese and only them! It sounds like the ‘aryan’ claim of Hitler. I hope the defeat of the Metn will show them that Lebanese are from different sects and religions and ethnical background and these Lebanese have no intention to submit to a racist group who believe they own the country.

August 7th, 2007, 3:24 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

please do not blame the maronite for what Gemayel said or did.the lebanese are smart(shatreen) they know that Gemayel and Geajea and Junblat are not working for lebanon,rather they are agents for USA and Israel.

August 7th, 2007, 4:45 pm


Nur al-Cubicle said:

Take that, Feltman! Paf!

August 7th, 2007, 4:47 pm


t_desco said:

Pressures on the Daily Star: How the US government is Pressuring the Lebanese press to refrain from criticizing Sanyurah or even Solidaire. Many of you were surprised to see a fine investigative article about Solidaire by Lysandra Ohrstrom in the Daily Star, of all places. You were correct to be surprised. My highly reliable (and well-placed) sources in Beirut are telling me that there were very strong reactions against the article by the Sanyurah government and its allies in the US embassy. The strongest reaction came from the USAID which funds the investigative page through an “accountability and transparency” grant. Don’t you like how the US defines “accountability and transparency”? The person who secured the USAID grant wrote that “the political agenda of the donors is not to undermine the fuoad Siniora government“. …
As’ad AbuKhalil

U.S. Keeps Close Vigil on Donors Sending Money to Aoun

The United States is keeping a tight vigil on Lebanese businessmen and other wealthy resident and non-resident Lebanese allegedly donating money to Gen. Michel Aoun and his Free Patriotic Movement.
The daily An Nahar on Tuesday, citing prominent sources, said “any citizen is subject” to the executive order issued by U.S. President George Bush which aims at blocking property of persons undermining Lebanon’s sovereignty or its democratic process and institutions. …

Syria hosts Iraq security meeting, U.S. to attend

Syria will host an international security meeting on Iraq on Wednesday although the United States doubts Damascus is willing to play a role in stopping violence in its eastern neighbour.
The two-day meeting will be held in a government complex on the outskirts of Damascus. Officials from Iraq, the United States, Britain, Iran, Turkey and Jordan will attend, a Syrian official said.
“Washington is making a gesture towards Syria by attending the meeting in Damascus,” a Syrian official told Reuters. …

August 7th, 2007, 5:43 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

So far I did not hear Emil Lahoud commenting on the election.

USA through David Welch has put Nabieh Berri on notice,he can not block the president election on september 25

August 7th, 2007, 5:57 pm


Kamal said:

Sorry to interrupt the anti-Maronite orgy on Syria Comment but:

1) Who has the breakdown of the non-Maronite Christian vote? I haven’t seen it anywhere – if anyone has, please share it. I believe the non-Maronite Christians vote was split (as opposed to voting as a bloc) but I’m waiting for more data. Now, if that information is not available, on what basis does Prof. Landis claim Orthodox and Catholics voted for Aoun?

2) Having made the (as yet) baseless claim, the Prof embarks on a shoddy exposition of inter-Christian rivalries, which can be summed up as: Aoun is an anti-feudalist who has inspired the support of non-Maronite Christians, historically wronged by Maronites, in dealing a blow to a Maronite feudal clan, the Gemayels. This is so funny, because it takes a piece of Aounist civil war-propaganda dating back to the late 80s (“General Aoun vs the feudal establishment”) and gives it a new twist by inserting the inter-Christian angle. Of course the inter-Christian divide exists (a topic for another day) but it was never part of Aounist propaganda because Aoun’s targeted support base was, and remains, the largest Christian community in Lebanon, the Maronites!

The modern/secular vs traditional/feudal dichotomy employed by Aoun supporters is sheer nonsense. Aoun’s FPM is as much of a personality cult, or MORE, than Lebanon’s other parties (all flawed). The FPM identity is just as sectarian (Christian, esp. Maronite, anti-Syrian and anti-Muslim) as other Lebanese parties (all sectarian). They are 2nd only to Hizballa on the scale of fanatical devotion to the Great Leader. As for Aoun coming to sweep feudalism away, this is blatantly contradicted by Aoun’s shameless alliance with the pro-Syrian feudal clans Franjieh, Karameh, Arslan, Murr… Please Prof, don’t peddle this claptrap.

3) Anyone, please show me evidence of M14 officials making ‘racist’ statements against Lebanese Armenians. (I will join you in condemning it outright.) Anger at Tashnag, the Armenian political party, does not equal racism, neither does accusing the party of blundering, nor even threatening them with political retribution. Those of you hurling accusations are acting like Zionists who charge critics of Israel with anti-semitism.

Friday Lunch Club’s idiotic allegation of “verbal genocide” is frankly offensive. Prof Landis, shame on you for honoring that stupid statement with a quotation.

Sami D, quoting a rumor-monger like the Angry Arab, who specializes in baseless slander, merely makes you a 2nd-rate rumor-monger.

August 7th, 2007, 5:57 pm


ausamaa said:

Aoun and his allies DEFEATED 14 Feb and their allies flat out. That is the bottom line, so let us not get too philosophical about it! The whole “good” world STOOD against Aoun, and he won.

So please, save us the headach and think of what will happen in “a” forthcoming Parlimentary Elections when Feb 14 and its “Good” supporters have to go against not only Aoun, but against Auon+Amal+Hizbullah+Franjeieh+Al Murr+SSNP+Karami+Yakan+ the rest of the “others”. It will be a disaster for the “good” guys. Wouldn’t?

Can “they” not even think straight?

August 7th, 2007, 6:03 pm


Kamal said:

But the General is still a leading presidential candidate
David Kenner, NOW Staff, August 3, 2007


According to a recent Sofres poll, Lebanese Christians have become steadily more critical of opposition leader Michel Aoun since the escalation of Lebanon’s political crisis in January. Nevertheless, Aoun remains the most popular choice for president. Explaining this situation goes a long way to revealing Aoun’s political strengths and weaknesses.

The poll, conducted in May by Sofres Liban, included 2,000 Lebanese Christians from across the country. Sofres Liban is the Lebanese branch of Taylor Nelson Sofres PLC, the #2 ranked global market research and information group based in London. It is worth noting, however, that the survey was done before the outbreak of conflict in Nahr al-Bared – events which likely impacted opinion on many of the issues covered.

According to the poll’s findings, the ongoing political deadlock has caused Aoun’s reputation to erode significantly among Christians. In a January Sofres poll, 50% of Christians stated that they had a favorable impression of Aoun, while 40% had a negative impression. By May, only 41% of Christians answered that they had a favorable opinion, and 52% had a negative opinion.

In contrast, March 14 leader Samir Geagea saw his favorability rating improve from 43% positive and 45% negative in January, to 54% positive and 40% negative in May.

The decline in Aoun’s reputation has been mirrored by a Christian shift toward March 14 in general. Christian support for March 14 grew from 35% in January to 42% in May, while support for March 8 shrunk slightly during the same time period, from 34% to 31%. 27% of Christians, however, still respond that they support neither March 8 nor March 14, a figure that has been relatively stable throughout the duration of the conflict.

The engine for this growing discontent seems to be Aoun’s alliance with Hezbollah. Many Christians are, and always have been, wary of the armed Shia group. When asked which party represented the greatest threat to them, 25% of Christians, a plurality, named Hezbollah. 55% of Christians favored the unconditional disarmament of Hezbollah in May – an increase from 47% two months prior. Disapproval of Aoun’s Memorandum of Understanding with Hezbollah has also increased recently, from 41% in March to 52% in May.

But despite the growing disagreement with General Aoun’s political alliances, a plurality of Lebanese Christians still favor Aoun in the upcoming presidential elections this September. According to the Sofres poll, Aoun was the choice of 34% of Christians for president. The next closest contender was Samir Geagea with 21%, followed by Amin Gemayel at 10%. 15% of Christians polled said that they supported none of the potential candidates for president.

So why does Aoun still come out ahead if his positions are losing support among the Christians?

Obviously, a major reason is that Aoun is the only opposition member who is a viable presidential candidate, while support for March 14 presidential candidates is divided between Geagea, Gemayel, Boutros Harb and Nassib Lahoud (who each hold on to 4% of Christian support) and others. The combined support of the top four March 14 candidates is 39% – exceeding the level of support for Aoun’s candidacy. As the presidential election nears, the March 14 coalition will likely settle on one candidate and thereby consolidate pro-government Christian support.

However, the advantage Aoun enjoys as the opposition’s central Christian figure should not be understated. His unique position as the only March 8 figure with real presidential stature has allowed him to gather Christians sympathetic to the opposition in a way that no candidate has been able among March 14 Christians.

Aoun also benefits from the fact that he is not defined solely by his current political stands. From the late 1980s until quite recently, Aoun established himself as one of Lebanon’s most uncompromising anti-Syrian leaders. From his attempt to drive the Syrians out of Lebanon in 1989 to his lobbying in favor of the American Syria Accountability Act in 2003, Aoun spent years building up a great deal of trust amongst Lebanon’s Christian community. While his current alliance with Hezbollah has greatly damaged this reputation, there are still some Lebanese Christians who hold out hope for the return of the “old Aoun.”

This is borne out when Lebanese Christians are asked what faction the next president should come from. In the Sofres poll, 29% of Christians favor a president from the March 14 camp, and 22% favor a president from March 8 – numbers relatively consistent with the overall balance of power between the rival factions in the Christian community. However, a substantial 11% of Christians announced that they favored an outcome where the March 14 coalition allied itself with General Aoun and supported him for the presidency.

Aoun’s advisors should be telling him that his presidential chances remain good – but that his alliance with Hezbollah is causing him to slowly bleed Christian support. He is currently benefiting from divided Christian strength among the March 14 forces and the strong support base he built up before 2005. However, these are two rapidly-dissolving advantages: the March 14 coalition will likely soon unite around a presidential candidate, and the longer Aoun remains tied to groups like Hezbollah, the faster many Christians are going to forget about his past accomplishments.

August 7th, 2007, 6:35 pm


Ford Prefect said:

Sorry to break into this interesting discussion of medieval sectarian strife in Lebanon, but the following from Reuters is worth the interruption:

Syria hosts Iraq security meeting, U.S. to attend

By Khaled Yacoub Oweis
DAMASCUS, Aug 7 (Reuters) – Syria will host an international security meeting on Iraq on Wednesday although the United States doubts Damascus is willing to play a role in stopping violence in its eastern neighbour.
The two-day meeting will be held in a government complex on the outskirts of Damascus. Officials from Iraq, the United States, Britain, Iran, Turkey and Jordan will attend, a Syrian official said.
“Washington is making a gesture towards Syria by attending the meeting in Damascus,” a Syrian official told Reuters.
U.S. officials held security talks in Baghdad this week with Syria’s ally Iran. After a visit to Damascus last month by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Syria said explicitly for the first time it supports the Shi’ite-led government in Baghdad.
One delegate said the meeting would focus on ways to control the 360-km (225 mile) border between Syria and Iraq and dismantling alleged Iraqi Baathist networks in Syria.
“With all the talk of Syria as a transit route for rebels, it makes sense to hold the meeting here. This is a chance for Damascus to show it can cooperate and talk with U.S. officials. The two sides rarely meet,” the delegate said.
“A mechanism should also emerge for the Iraqis and Syrians to cooperate regularly on controlling the border,” he said.
Washington says Syria is allowing fighters and weapons into Iraq. Damascus denies this and says ending instability in Iraq and achieving an “honourable withdrawal” for U.S. forces is in its national interest.
A diplomat in the Syrian capital said Damascus had kept its policy on Iraq vague in the absence of a U.S. promise to give Syria something in return for its cooperation, such as an easing of American sanctions that were imposed on Syria in 2004, or pressure on Israel to withdraw from the Syrian Golan Heights.
“So far Syria has been playing both hands. It puts out the right statements but does not move substantially on the ground,” the diplomat said.
Syria fiercely opposed the American-led invasion of 2003 that removed Saddam Hussein from power and brought sectarian tensions to the surface. It has since hosted an estimated 1.4 million Iraqi refugees who have fled Iraq.
It also hosts a large number of former operatives from Saddam’s security forces whom the U.S.-backed Iraqi government accuses of having links with the rebels.
The Damascus meeting is a follow-up to a conference in Egypt in May in which senior U.S. and Syrian officials met each other for the first time in two years. Another follow-up meeting in Amman dealt with the refugee problem.
Although the Damascus meeting will focus on Iraq’s security concerns, Turkey is expected to raise the issue of Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) rebel separatists who use Iraqi Kurdistan as a base. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki visited Turkey on Tuesday for talks on dealing with the PKK.

August 7th, 2007, 6:41 pm


Ford Prefect said:

Ausamaa, I think you meant to say above the 14 March and not the 14 Feb coalition, correct? With so many dates floating around, I am getting officially confused.

August 7th, 2007, 6:45 pm


Sophia said:

“The United States is keeping a tight vigil on Lebanese businessmen and other wealthy resident and non-resident Lebanese allegedly donating money to Gen. Michel Aoun and his Free Patriotic Movement.”

I read it. It is a tautology because the US is keeping close watch on everything in Lebanon that may contradict its agenda. But to write the article pointing only at Aoun is propoaganda, scaremogering, and a way to infleunce Christian public opinion away from Aoun.

August 7th, 2007, 7:16 pm


Leb Christian said:

The usual worthless vomit from the likes of Ausamaa, and the likes.

I love the comments on your site Joshua. But why am I not surprised? feces attracts flies, and given the quality of your reporting and analysis, well…

Also if you guys are going to spew your usual anti Christin anti March 14th hate propaganda at least get the names straight. It’s called Solidere, not Solidaire, “Mr. who has reliable sources in Lebanon” lol

August 7th, 2007, 7:30 pm


Kamal said:

Classic deception from the Angry Arab, As’ad AbuKhalil.

He edits out Jumblat’s explicit reference to the Armenian PARTY Tashnag, and inserts a reference to the Armenian PEOPLE to make the comment appear racist. Isn’t he ashamed to be copying the Zionist tactic of substituting “Jews” for “Israel” and putting racist words in the mouths of their opponents?

Angry Arab writes:

“[Jumblat] called on Armenians in Lebanon “to take into consideration the right of the Lebanese people to self-determination.” So Jumblat now officially excludes the Armenians in Lebanon from the category of the Lebanese people.


The Daily Star:

“‘I wish that the Tashnag party took into consideration the right of the Lebanese people for self-determination to face the Syrian fascist regime and not forgotten the Armenian genocides,’ said Jumblatt. In Sunday’s Metn by-election, more than 7,000 out of 9,000 Armenians voted for FPM candidate Camile Khoury. At the same time, Jumblatt saluted the neutral Armenians and those who never took part in the Lebanese Civil War.”


Unedited Arabic comments from the PSP website:

أضاف: “أما بالنسبة الى حزب الطاشناق، فكنا نتمنى على هذا الحزب أن ينسجم مع الماضي الأرمني العريق الذي عانى الاضطهاد والمجازر وقدم الشهداء في أوائل القرن العشرين، ويعلم أكثر من سواه معنى النضال من أجل الحرية والاستقلال، وإنتظر طويلا للاعتراف بأرمينيا والحصول على حق تقرير المصير، فعليهم أن يأخذوا في الإعتبار أيضا حق الشعب اللبناني بتقرير المصير في مواجهة النظام الفاشي السوري. كما لا بد من توجيه التحية للطائفة الأرمنية الكريمة التي لم تنحز لأي فريق طوال الحرب الأهلية اللبنانية. لذلك، ومن دون تجني، لا بد من وقفة ضمير


August 7th, 2007, 8:03 pm


3antar said:

Robert Fisk: Lebanese strike a blow at US-backed government
Published: 07 August 2007

They’ve done it again. The Arabs have, once more, followed democracy and voted for the wrong man.

Just as the Palestinians voted for Hamas when they were supposed to vote for the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas, so the Christian Maronites of Lebanon appear to have voted for a man opposed to the majority government of Fouad Siniora in Beirut. Camille Khoury – with a strong vote from the Armenian Tashnak party – won by 418 votes the seat that belonged to Pierre Gemayel, murdered last November by gunmen supposedly working for the Syrian security services.


August 7th, 2007, 8:39 pm


Observer said:

The Aoun group presented a program for their candidate and there was an attempt to have a substance driven debate rather than a personality issue. Like Ghada ElYafi who presented a coherent program and was selected to present hers at the French National Assembly some time ago, no one outside of Aoun and HA are offering any programs. I am happy for the electorate and for the process to have successeded without blood shed and despite vote buying attempts. I hope this brings Lebanese politicans of all stripes to embrace political programs and present solutions and issues rather than continue to play their populations for fools. The Lebanese people are not fools and are not going to go for another round of conflict to serve the interests of others.

August 7th, 2007, 9:07 pm


kingcrane jr said:

I like to quote the murderous warlord Jumblatt, ally of the murderous warlord Geagea:

“I wish(ed) that the Tachnag Party took into consideration the right of the Lebanese people for self-determination to face the Syrian fascist regime and not forgotten the Armenian genocides”

This statement leads me to a simple question: Is the Syrian regime more fascist than the Jumblatt regime, the Geagea regime, or can it even compete against THE fascist party in Lebanon, the Phalanges?

I doubt it. Even if the exiled Rifaat hashes it out with them, but Rifaat has been (fortunately, but alas not until thousands of casualties in Hama) excluded from the region by the rest of the Asad family.

Walid bey forgets that some Lebanese are more interested in their self-determination fight against the Zionist entity to the South, one that has inflicted far more damage to Lebanon than the “mutually beneficial” Syrian presence which has mostly benefited the political “elite” composed of Hariri, Michel Murr, and others to a lesser degree, but certainly not the “not-so-sexy” poor Southeners.

Unless we go back to Ottoman days, and we divide the Lebanese citizens into first category citizens (currently: the rich, including all the beneficiaries of Hariri’s largesses, and the salaried Walid bey is one of them) and second or third category citizens (currently: the poor, including those who got swindled in the Solid-ayr deal).

As to the Armenian genocides, committed by the Young Turks’ apparatus, with some Kurdish and Turkmen participants, Northern Syrians from Hasakeh to Lattakiah, and from Aleppo to Hama, welcomed those who were able to escape. These Armenian Orthodox refugees added to the “arman `atiq” populations of Southern Lesser Cilicia (Kassab and its region) many of whom had since migrated to larger cities. So why put the Armenian genocide in the same sentence, Walid bey?

May be the pothead of Mukhtara believes that Syrian influence in Turkey caused the Armenian genocides? Or is it a veiled threat? Walid bey was very generous when he accepted 800 Maronite/Christian casualties instead of the “planned” 1000 that Elias Sarkis, Pierre Gemayel, Sleiman Frangieh Senior, and Camille Cham`un all accepted as acceptable casuaties of war when they insisted that killing his father, the honorable Kamal Jumblatt, was a necessary deed to counter the PSP-Leftist-Palestinian alliance?

Why does Walid bey keep saying stupid things? He could say: “We are allies with Israel, the US and Saudi Arabia, and we are against Syria and Iran; we would like the voters to vote for us; Hariri will be very generous if you vote for us”

Of course, if he said so, his sponsors will get rid of him. Officially, we are all anti-Israeli, right?

My father had this to say to Walid bey for his “I wish” statement as written in the Daily Star: “I wish you, you wish me, woujjak bil tashmi” not a heiku, but appropriate poetry for this sinister individual who has terrorized the christians of the Shuf.

On the other hand: The results of the election are… interesting. Most party apparatuses know that the real margin was far greater, and while Gemayel alleges fraud in one or two precincts, money, coercion, and `awatef were used by his followers, the latter for female voters who like good tear-jerking stories. The Minister of Interior produced a 400 vote margin as a face-saving measure for Amine Gemayel. The truth is, the Minister of Interior could not produce a victory for Amine Gemayel, unless he wanted an open rebellion the size of the Metn caza and beyond. This leaves March 14 with less candidates for the Presidency (Nasib Lahud, Boutros Harb, and a few others) but it is noticeable that Amine Gemayel was felt to be “unreliable” by some.

My verdict: Welch is now threatening Berri about the election, but it will not take place; instead, Berri will answer that his consultations with the various blocs show that a quorum to elect the President will not be possible. We will have two goverments: the traitor crocodile-tears-producer Sanyura versus the Commander of the Army. Does this ring a bell?

Yahya Lubnan.

August 7th, 2007, 9:26 pm


t_desco said:


it may just be An-Nahar spin, but the scary thing is that this new executive order on Lebanon could indeed be used in this way, against Aoun, trying to hurt him financially by scaring away potential donors. Some days ago I quoted an earlier attempt by the US ambassador to intimidate Aoun, so it wouldn’t be the first time.

August 7th, 2007, 9:28 pm


ausamaa said:

Leb Christian

Ya, I know how you must feel. Actually with a mentality that is vulgar enough to choose a name like “Leb Christian” (linking a Country to a Religion), how else could you feel and act?

However, one must give credit where credit is due; at least you did not choose a name like “Matn Maronite” or “Triploi Suni” or “Shof Durz”. Which places you miles ahead of looser Amin Jemayyel who keeps repeating that he won the Maronite vote but lost because of the non-Maronite (non-Christian?!) Armenian vote!

BTW, Leb Christian, you just happen to belong to a country where Leb Suni + Leb Sheii + Leb Durzi far outnumber Leb Christian. Must be highly distressing to your likes. Well, if you dont mind my saying so, you should not be distressed at all. The Lebanon we know is called the Lebanese Republic not the Maronite Lebanese Republic or the Lebanese Christian Republic or the Lebanese Shieat Republic.

My God, what world do you and your likes live in? And you are “supposed” to be the Westernized, Modernized, Enlightened and the Highly Educated people of the “backward” Middle East. Well, many Lebanese for sure are. But not the likes of you, Leb Christian.

August 7th, 2007, 10:50 pm


Youssef Hanna said:

The political struggle expressed itself in free elections only once during the Syrian regime hold on Lebanon (Gaby vs Myrna, 2002); you all remember however that the Syrian regime favored loser’s father reversed the outcome of elections by order of a subservient constitutional court. Will anybody dispute that thanks to the 14 March Lebanese rediscovered the fever of political/electoral struggle, and the joy that whoever they elect is declared the winner? does anyone suspect Saniora will to the contrary reverse the outcome of these elections in favor of Gemayel? as much as rediscovering politics, Lebanese will rediscover with the international tribunal, also thanks to the 14 March, that the 3-decade era finished as well during which all political murders went unpunished maybe because of the Syrian regime abusive abidance by procedural evidentiary rules (only Geagea was tried and convicted), or maybe because the policeman in charge of finding and prosecuting the killer was no other than the latter. Our opponent’s victory is thus ours.

August 7th, 2007, 11:01 pm


kingcrane jr said:


You are confusing representative Murr the father (Michel), the opportunist ex-Phalangist who has backed Awn’s candidate after trying to mediate a solution (an independent candidate) between the General and Amine Pierre Gemayel with Murr the son (Elias) who has been pretending to be an “independent” member of the government as Minister of Defense. Never mind [edit] Gaby Murr, brother of Michel, and uncle of Elias, who attacked the Armenian community [edit]. Other members of the family include Myrna Murr, daughter of Michel, who has no liking to politics despite her daddy’s insistence, and May Murr, sister of Michel and Gaby, who has allegedly converted from Greek Antiochian Orthodoxy to Greek Antiochian Catholicism (Melkite); she is a published author, but she has become more famous for her far-right political stance, [edit]

My verdict: sooner or later, Awn (if given the opportunity) will have to stick to his radical reformist agenda and cut his ties with Michel Murr. The current alliance is based on popularity (Michel Awn) for money (Michel Murr), but who knows. Michel Murr has always kept a good relationship with some Phalangists but not with the Lebanese Forces. Back when Awn was in charge (of a divided Lebanon, Selim Hoss being in charge of West Beirut), Geagea purged the Lebanese Forces, and Awn sent in his men (the Army) to prevent the deaths of several Maronites on Geagea’s hit list, to include Elias Murr. This is one of several reasons why, despite Elias Murr’s divorce from Emile Lahoud’s daughter, he is unlikely to ally too obstentiously with the March 14 crowd, particularly Geagea.

August 7th, 2007, 7:08 pm


ausamaa said:

Youssef Hanna..

In a way you are right (that is if you did not invoke the Senyoura Fairness as a part of your argument).

And I wish your opponents more victories which will be yours of course as well.

August 7th, 2007, 11:11 pm


Youssef Hanna said:

Ausamaa, i doubt it that the courteous, cool headed, courageous, Hassan Nasrallah truly trusts for president and respects a man who shows regular and disturbing signs of agitation, and proved blatant cowardice on 13 oct.1990: 15 years from Paris, indeed, but 15 minutes from Baabda. I also suspect that Aoun may clash with Nasrallah and Yakan, on the fundamental ground of laicity, with Arslan and Frangieh, on the central ground of anti-feudalism, with Murr, on the capital ground of anti-corruption. Time will come when our opponents, as you put them in the plural form, will score victories, indeed, that i wish as much as you do: victories ones against the others.

August 8th, 2007, 12:13 am


david said:

Right on, kingcrane, jr. But I think it might be worth noting that a close election result suited both sides. Much is made of Aoun’s alliances in securing victory in the by-election, but I would bet high dollar (or lira, I guess) that Aoun’s “current” allies also preferred a close result and perhaps did not send their minions out in full force.

Similarly, I would imagine that M14 (hariri) may have had Gemayel walk the plank as a force demonstration to its Christian allies, esp. the presidential hopefuls. I think the whole thing was skirmish ahead of battle for baabda and neither “side” wanted to show its full hand, just yet. A very Lebanese game, if I may say so, with the attendant, and bewildering, array of conflicting agendas, loyalties and calculations.

August 8th, 2007, 4:27 am


Phil said:

Hi there,

The claim that Michel el Murr put all his weight behind Aoun’s candidate is not entirely true. He rather publicly stated that yes, they are allies, but that he would not force his supporters to vote against Gemayel. Many of Murr’s supporters (thousands) have a tendency to support the Kataeb as well (why did the Murr leave one seat for the Gemayels in 2005?). Respecting that, his electoral “machina” did not run at full throttle and the results clearly show that. This is one reason why the results of these (by-)elections can not be extrapolated to the next general elections. Those would be the real show of force.

August 9th, 2007, 7:26 am


Leb Christian said:

The usual vomit from you, incapable of debating on the issues but rather adrerssing a nickname.

In case you didn’t know, you cannot add The Druze, the Sunnis and the Shiites together. As a matter of fact, they would get offended in your attempt to place them in the same bag. So sorry, but as usual you don’t have a point. As a single community the Christians are the biggest community in Lebanon. I know how that must make you feel, but you can keep dreaming of getting rid of us.

Telle me is your nickname in celebration of Ben Laden? If it was, are you too chicken shit to admit it on a public forum?

August 10th, 2007, 9:15 pm


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