Aoun withdraws candidacy
BEIRUT — Michel Aoun threw a fastball on the eve of the last day of Emile Lahoud’s term, proposing an interesting initiative to break the deadlock.
I’m still getting translation, but it appears that he will withdraw his candidacy for the presidency — which he has claimed as his “right” — but he will nominate a candidate who is not part of the his Free Patriotic Movement bloc. This president would uphold his agreement with Hezbollah over its arms. (Aoun believes only his Memorandum of Understanding with the Party of God protects the Shi’ite militia from a military attack.)
Saad Hariri, leader of the Future Movement and the pro-Western bloc in the government, should in turn nominate a prime minister who is not part of the majority bloc, but who would support the international tribunal investigating the assassination of Saad’s father, Rafik Hariri. The tribunal is bitterly opposed by Syria and its allies in Lebanon.
There was also something about the majority would get 55 percent of the cabinet and the opposition would get 45 percent — including two “sovereign” ministries. That gives it veto power. That won’t play well, probably.
What’s most interesting is that Aoun made this initiative publicly, in a press conference, rather than the usual under-the-table manner of Lebanese politicians.
Quck reax analysis: This allows Hezbollah to accept another candidate other than Aoun, who was reportedly giving Hezbollah and even Syria headaches. So I think Aoun has been made to realize he doesn’t have nearly the amount of support among his allies or even among the Christians he thought he did, and he was becoming an obstacle to getting Hezbollah out of the corner it had painted itself into. Because make no doubt: this initiative wouldn’t have gone forward without Syria’s blessing. It does allows Aoun to save some face. Maybe it will keep everyone happy until the next crisis.
In short, this is movement forward in a country where deadlock has been the order of the day for months.
Your play, March 14.
**UPDATE:** Hariri has rejected Aoun’s proposal and called for parliamentarians to gather for a vote tomorrow. Hezbollah and its allies have said they will boycott any session, meaning March 14 could be heading for a 50+1 vote. This could lead to a coup, two rival governments, street fighting and a host of problems. This could be game on.