Aoun to run in Lebanese elections

Lebanese Christian opposition leader Michel Aoun has announced he will be taking part in next week's elections.

    Aoun returned to Lebanon on 7 May after 14 years in exile

    Aoun, a Christian who will run in the central Mount Lebanon region, said on Sunday that he had not reached any agreement with Muslim opposition figures to contest on a common platform.


    "I will announce my alliances and joint tickets in the coming hours," Aoun said during an interview with a Lebanese radio station. "We will continue discussions with the (slain former prime minister Rafik Hariri's) Future Movement even if the (negotiations) with (Druze leader Walid) Jumblatt reach a deadlock."


    The 1989 Taif Accord, which ended the civil war, divides the Parliament's 128 seats equally between Christians and Muslims, and electoral district has a specific number of seats for followers of both religions.


    The elections that will start on 29 May and be conducted on four consecutive Sundays will be based on an electoral law adopted in 2000.


    Christian campaign


    Christian bishops and groups have campaigned against the law because it divides Lebanon into large electoral districts that they say favour the Muslim majority. The main Christian groups favour smaller electoral districts that would enable minority Christian voters to select their representatives.


    Christian groups have demanded
    changes in the electoral law


    Sunni MP Walid Eido, a member of Hariri's parliamentary bloc, said that Lebanon's sects "have to be taken into consideration when handling political life, especially that we are very concerned about national unity".


    Saad Hariri, the son of Sunni prime minister Rafik Hariri who was killed on 14 February, and Druze leader Walid Jumblatt have replaced moderate Christian allies with hardline candidates in Beirut and the mountains.


    The demographic distribution of Christians across Lebanon makes them a minority in each of the electoral districts. That's why Christian opposition groups have to ally with powerful Muslim groups to be able to make it to parliament. 


    Specific seats


    Negotiations between Hariri, Jumblatt and Aoun have been based on how many of the Christian seats would go to candidates belonging to Aoun's group.


    Hariri and Jumblatt disagree with Aoun over the number of candidates from his group, the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), that should run on their lists in the north, the Bekaa and the mountains.

    Saad Hariri disagrees with Aoun
    over the selection of candidates


    "It is not Hariri and Jumblatt who shall choose how many seats I deserve," Aoun told


    "Just as they have the right to choose Christian candidates, I have the right also to choose Muslim candidates, especially that my group includes Muslim members," he said.


    Aoun, who returned to Lebanon on 7 May after 14 years in exile, accused the other opposition figures of trying to control the electoral process.


    "We are living now in another kind of intelligence regime," Aoun said. "It is not run by the Syrians anymore but by Lebanese civilians."


    Former Maronite president


    Aoun also criticised the United States and France for "insisting on the date of the elections, and not on the law itself," in reference to Christian calls to postpone the elections to allow enough time for a new electoral law that would be seen by Christians as fairer.


    "Just as they have the right to choose Christian candidates, I have the right also to choose Muslim candidates"

    Michel Aoun,
    Christian opposition leader

    Aoun said opposition groups perceived him as a threat and said he'd combat family political successions, which some observers said was a clear reference to former Maronite President Amin Gemayel.


    Gemayel, however, described Aoun's comments as "political literature".


    "When he starts to deal with realities, he'll have to reshuffle his policies," Gemayel told "We have no choice but to cooperate regardless of some of his public speeches."


    Gemayel comes from a political family. His father, Pierre Gemayel, founded the Phalange Party. Gemayel became president after the assassination of his brother, Bashir Gemayel, in 1982. Today, Amin Gemayel's son, Pierre Gemayel, is a member of parliament.


    Gemayel also differed with Aoun about the elections.


    "It will be the first time for the Lebanese to vote freely in the elections since 1972 without foreign interference," Gemayel told


    Not running


    Former prime minister Omar Karami announced on Friday that he would not run the elections in the north because of what he called "the use of financial superiority" in campaigns.


    His decision came several weeks after other prominent Sunni politicians, such as Tammam Salam and Salim al-Hoss, and Sunni groups, such as al-Jamaa al-Islamiyah, announced they were not going to run in the elections.


    Karami, a pro-Syrian Sunni politician, resigned as prime minister two weeks after Rafik Hariri's assassination amid enormous local and international pressure.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera


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