Commentary on the FPM

16 01 2008

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The FPM (Free Patriotic Movement) is led by the former Army General Michelle Aoun. The leader fled for exile in the 1990’s, after confronting the Syrian military presence in Lebanon, which was dubbed the “War of Independence”. The former Generals exile coinciding with the end of the civil war.

After 15 years, the General returned to Lebanon in March 2005. His party, and the followers he had amassed, participated in the Anti-Syrian protests of March 15. Although, as things progressed, both the March 8 and March 14 forces ignored General Michelle Aoun to form an alliance ahead of the Lebanese General Elections.

Arguably, they both feared the stance the new-comer may adopt and had perceived him as weak and ineffective – especially due to his long absence. March 14 could not risk their alliance with the PSP, Phalanges and Lebanese Forces for an alliance with an unpredictable Aoun. Similarly, the Hezbollah and pro-Syrian camp could not risk an alliance with a Aoun who had periodically waged war with their ally and the friction in relations between them and Syria if Aoun would be allowed into the camp.

Despite his out-shunning, Michelle Aoun’s FPM party won a landslide in the elections, gaining 70% of the Christian vote. Tensions followed between the March 8 and March 14 camps which resulted in the breakup of the alliance. The opposition was a minority in Parliament and so was the FPM – gaining 28 out of the 124 seats in Parliament. A new interest was spawned between the opposition forces of March 8 and the FPM – especially between Hezbollah and General Michelle Aoun.

There are a number of reasons for this. The General opposed negative relations with the Arab neighbour as long as they stayed outside Lebanese lands. This seemed like an appealing stance to the opposition. Likewise, the FPM’s fear of internal isolation, and ‘Christian-only’ sectarian party, proved as an incentive to get into an alliance with a multi-sectarian and organised opposition alliance.

What ensued was a political understanding between Hezbollah and the FPM, effectively incorporating the General’s party into the opposition camp.

Never the less, the FPM is still a distinguished party in the Lebanese opposition. They have appealed to people from all the political and sectarian spectrum with their secular nature and appealing, logical views. Furthermore, their independence from any outside interference, international political affiliation or any intercontinental alliance with outside nations. It is absurd to so much as to think that their decision-making is being controlled or influenced by any country. I like to add that not even their political allies in Lebanon could achieve such a feat.

Michelle Aoun is too strong a leader to be manipulated. Too independent to be lured. An indication to this is the fact that only the FPM can hold debates over the future presidency post concerning any and all candidates.  The FPM may well mirror the national expectation for what future party models should be shaped like.

Although, this has come at a price. They do not receive the billions of dollars that Hezbollah has received in their global community and international alliances. However, I still believe the direction that the FPM is headed towards is the best any party has posed in a long time in Lebanon – and surely this will pay off sooner or later. When Hezbollah one day become a solely political party in Lebanon, I would like to see their and the FPM parties being incorporated into one. That would be the ultimate super-party in Lebanon. One that provides social services charitably, is secular and represents a vast number of the country’s constituents.

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