A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Lebanon: Geagea Endorses ‘Aoun

The US media is preoccupied with today's announcement that Sarah Palin has endorsed Donald Trump, but a far stranger matchup occurred in recent days when Samir Geagea suddenly endorsed his arch-rival Michel ‘Aoun for the Lebanese Presidency.

You may recall that President Michel Suleiman's term ended in May 2014 and Lebanon has failed to elect a President since. (In the absence of a President, which has been a frequent issue in recent years, the Prime Minister acts as President.) In 2014, Parliament (which elects the President by a two-thirds vote) failed to elect a President due to differences between the March 8 and March 14 movement.

Lately efforts to resolve the situation have revived, though the constitutionality of the present Parliament is itself debatable since it extended its own term. The Maronite Patriarch has sought to encourage a common candidate (the President must be a Maronite).

As far back as 2014 I was noting that the main candidates had the same familiar names as the warlords of the civil war era, being either the same men or the sons or grandsons of he old zu‘ama. That is still the case, but the move by Geagea, a March 14 figure, endorsing ‘Aoun, a March 8 member backed by Hizbullah, is a genuine surprise that reshuffles the deck.

Lately there had been some talk of naming March 8 supporter Suleiman Frangieh (grandson and namesake of the President in the early 1970s), an old rival of Geagea's, though what persuaded Geagea to endorse another old enemy, ‘Aoun.

It is still unclear whether Geagea's move will throw sufficient support behind ‘Aoun to actually elect him but once again it is a reminder that in Lebanon, bitter enemies can become allies overnight. (Walid Jumblatt can change sides even faster.)


A. Saadun said...

Peeling Michel from Hizb?

Anonymous said...

Maybe, just maybe the Patriarch's most convincing argument to Geagea was that while he did his time for his crimes, he had not repented or gotten God's forgiveness for his rather serious sins and that this was his penance.

Not long ago, one of the Lebanese channels broadcast a documentary about one of the lesser known outside of Lebanon militia chiefs who was trying to make amends with God and victims. One thing he did not do was tell a desperate mother where her son killed by the Lebanese forces was buried after they killed him.