06/23/2005, 00.00
LEBANON

General Michel Aoun and Lebanon's future

by Youssef Hourany

Beirut (AsiaNews) – Michel Aoun, the general in exile for nearly 15 years at Syria's behest, has turned out to be one of the winners in Lebanon's parliamentary elections. Yesterday he met the Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir in Bkerke.

After his visit with Cardinal Sfeir, Aoun told AsiaNews he has decided his entire group of 14 members of parliament will join in the drafting of a new electoral law, geared towards giving each citizen "his rights to freedom and democracy".

The 2000 electoral law, wanted by the Syrians, was worked out in such a way as to favour public figures and groups closer to Syria while penalising above all the Christian areas of east Beirut. Despite this, the parliamentary majority – 72 seats in all – was clinched by the Bristol group (Saad Hariir, Joumblatt, Kornet Chehwane, Lebanese Forces).

The victory is however less than expected: Saad Hariri had predicted a victory of at least 90 seats in parliament, that is, the two-thirds needed to change the constitution without resorting to outside backing. The more modest impact of Hariri's triumph is down to Aoun's presence and his victory in areas of Mount Lebanon and Zahle.

Faten Nader, president of the organisation for social development and promotion of peace, told AsiaNews: "Certainly it was known that Aoun [back in Lebanon only a few days before the election – ndr] was popular among Christians and even among Muslims, but not to the point of making his candidates win in Kesrouan, Metn and in Zahle. In any case, thanks to him, Christians felt more motivated to get out there. Now he has been consecrated as the representative of a good number of Christians."

Sources close to Michel Aoun say the ex general has already drawn up a list of the most urgent problems which need to be tackled: the application of the UN Convention 1559 about the total Syrian withdrawal, the disarmament of Hezbollah and of the Palestinian camps. But these problems are also the most burning issues, which threaten to polarize people and make the life of the new parliament difficult.  

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