Michel Aoun described his decision to field a candidate against March 14 candidate Amin Gemayel as a response to "the attempt to strike the last bastion of anti-neodictatorship and the bastion of preserving the presidential powers".
The FPM exegetes will explain their leader's latest grandiose statement as a noble counter attack to safeguard Christian rights in the country. Mind you not even the Maronite church, which has been pushing for compromise, believes this nonsense. But Aoun and his people have their own way, and we earthlings have ours.
Rumor has it that Aoun didn't even want to participate in these by-elections, but was pressured. Regardless, as Michael Young puts it, the former general probably "walked into a trap", dragging with him the Christian community, which is "more divided than ever before". This is something that, Young argues, "Syrians can only welcome … with their usual sense of humor."
Aoun, who doesn't even believe the government that is organizing the elections is legitimate, shares the flip-flopping of his pro-Syrian buddies in the "opposition". Reportedly, some of the resigned ministers still, from time to time, go to work. The by-elections themselves were rejected by Emile Lahoud, whose authority is only recognized by the opposition when it suits them. Lahoud sends memos to the cabinet before every session to remind it that it's unconstitutional. And Aoun has asked the Shura council to look into the constitutionality of the elections.
But it seems the orders have come from Damascus to play democratic elections. Tragically, both contested seats became vacant after their holders were assassinated. The Syrians have a lot to gain: on the one hand they can sow division democratically, and on the other replace at least one March 14 seat with one that votes for Syrian interests, which the general seems to value a lot these days.
The election in Beirut may go to the Hariri candidate, but with thousands of Syrians who received Lebanese citizenship during the Syrian era waiting to be bussed on Sunday, the Metn election could go either way.
Update. The Shura council has rejected the motion filed by the FPM candidate contesting the elections. I guess the candidate, Camille Khoury, has to run wholeheartedly now! Meanwhile, the Maronite Patriarch continues his efforts to reconcile Gemayel and Aoun. A proposal by Aoun to withdraw all three candidates (one is independent) was rejected by Gemayel, and it seems by the Maronite church as well. A statement by the Maronite bishops called for elections to be held in a "spirit of consensus, according to constitutional rules and regulations and in line with customary traditions." Translation: there will be elections.
Now Lebanon is reporting tension between pro-Syrian Michel Murr and FPM deputy Ibrahim Kenaan, who accused the latter of not mobilizing his supporters fast enough. Once again, Aoun is counting on votes by the pro-Syrian parties, including the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP), whose leader announced on July 29 that he would be backing the FPM candidate.