Metn politics a factor in Gemayel’s return
Daily Star: Amin Gemayel’s return to the country is believed to be the outcome of a compromise between the former president and the administration. According to sources close to the issue, Gemayel was given the green light to return after his son Pierre promised not to ally with Metn MP Nassib Lahoud, President Emile Lahoud’s cousin, in the upcoming elections and join forces with MP Albert Mokheiber instead. This scenario would see three lists Murr, representing the government and allied with President Emile’s son Emile Jr.; Nassib Lahoud, representing the opposition, and Mokheiber-Gemayel doing battle.
A political source said that Amin Gemayel hinted that his son might join Mokheiber on a list during a Tuesday meeting with Speaker Nabih Berri. Nassib Lahoud, Mokheiber and Gemayel share the same electoral base, namely Christians disillusioned with the post-Taif Accord political reality. Ensuring that they do not band together in the polls would clear the way for Interior Minister Michel Murr to emerge as the leading politician in Metn.
Mokheiber boycotted the 1992, while Gemayel was forced to seek exile in France. Nassib Lahoud thus emerged as one of the most popular opposition figures in the post-Taif years. But while an alliance among the three opposition politicians could have spelled trouble for Murr, this tripartite alliance’s chances were dying well before Amin Gemayel’s return. Nassib Lahoud and Mokheiber were in disagreement a month ago, following the latter’s alleged rapprochement with Murr. Murr, who has yet to announce his candidate list, had made it known that he was considering leaving the district’s other Orthodox seat vacant, allowing Mokheiber to win, on the condition that he did not ally himself with Lahoud. Murr’s current Orthodox ally, MP Raji Abu Haidar, already has indicated that he is not interested in seeking another term. With no official declarations of Pierre Gemayel’s intentions, Nassib Lahoud is still trying to win over the political scion and potential symbol of the opposition in an attempt to get disgruntled Christian voters to the ballot boxes.
But Lahoud has reportedly taken Gemayel’s hesitancy to announce his election intentions, as well as the ex-president’s return, as a sign that the former president has been co-opted by the government. Amin Gemayel himself reinforced this impression upon his return, having emphasized his desire to engage in dialogue with the country’s political forces and “be part of the national consensus and the reconstruction process.” His role as a potential opponent to the present regime as the public has tended to envision him in recent years appears to have been put on hold for the time being.