Michel Aoun, Religious Scholar
Hassan Haydar

Al-Hayat - 27/09/07//

It is said, in exaggeration, that every Lebanese who's born a Maronite immediately becomes a candidate for the presidency of the Republic. However, the one who most represents this presidential dream today is, without rival, MP Michel Aoun. His desire for the seat in Baabda has gone as far as to create and borrow expressions and formulas (that none of his presumed competitors has used) for "ruling" a country whose anchoring is not fixed and is not easy to steer.

The "ruling" in question is derived from "wilayat al-faqih" (the rule of the cleric: Khomeini's theory of religious rule), since Aoun has become closer to his ally Hizbullah than he is to the public that looked hopefully to the future upon his return from exile. Instead, the Christians are leaving more and are more profoundly divided, the political and economic situation in the country is worse, and the solutions Aoun's proposing, in which he puts himself forward as the central part of the puzzle, have only seen him reap the wind.

Deciding matters of religious law, or fiqh, shows up on the tongue of the retired general at every occasion. The most recent was of course the parliamentary session to elect a president, which did not see a quorum. When the majority insisted on its constitutional right to elect a new president on the basis of a 50% plus one quorum, Aoun called it "a coup d'Etat" and promised that "all means of suppressing this coup will be 'halal'," or religiously permitted. This is the logical extension of the phrase "unpolluted money," which Aoun's ally uses to explain what it gets in the way of Iranian financing.

On this same occasion, Aoun adopted the policy of accusing others of treason, which the party and its like, those who have been inspired by the near-by Baathist school, have been keen to use. Aoun believed that electing a president from the majority with an absolute majority "would be like a second July war against the resistance, but in a Lebanese context this time." Just as Hizbullah did after last year's war, and like Damascus did when it considered the parliamentary majority "an Israeli product," Aoun hung on the Israeli "rack" everyone with whom he disagrees, those who don't follow his policies and positions, and those who don't believe in him as the sole candidate for the presidency.

He quickly issued a "fatwa" saying that "no one can become the president of the Republic who is hostile to Hizbullah," i.e. placing the presidency that he aspires to, using all possible means, in the hands of his ally and under its conditions, perhaps in an attempt to convince his ally that he will not abandon it and signal his readiness to accept all of its conditions, after talk of a consensus president means that he will be ignored and his opportunities to become president will dissipate.

If the electoral session that didn't convene indicated the possibility of beginning of dialogue or an understanding between the pro-government and opposition camps, then Aoun was the most important absentee. In fact, his allies behaved as if he was a mere appendage of them, nothing more. The two-thirds quorum, which the opposition continues to advocate, can be secured by the attendance of the Shiite MPs, if an agreement is reached with the majority, and there would be no need for Aoun, his deputies or his opinion about the next president. His participation in any understanding would only be pro forma. Aoun's public will discover that he has dragged himself and them into a mistaken political formula, one that not only increases Christian division but also marginalizes the role of those in whose name he spoke; this formula has excluded them position of influence and decision-making. He has given them a regional formula that does not suit their weight, does not give them a role and does not classify them as its local proxy.

Due to his strong identification with Hizbullah, Aoun only needs to disappear for a period of time. Perhaps after that he might appear as a "president