Worried Lebanese

thought crumbs on lebanese and middle eastern politics

A backdrop to Political Laundering

Posted by worriedlebanese on 18/03/2009

250px-lebanon_districts_matnA quick look at Lebanese petty politics. Today a backdrop, tomorrow the telling details.

Many analysts have predicted that in the coming parliamentary elections, the Metn constituency will be “the mother of all battles” (along with the other districts they use the expression for:  all those of Mount Lebanon, at least two districts of the Beqaa and one district in Beirut).

Why is the political battle in this constituency so important? Well, it doesn’t have to do with the number of MPs that will be elected there or the economical wealth of the district.  Its importance is foremost symbolic. From here hail the Kataeb. This is where the political opposition to the Syrian “mandate” was the most vocal; it’s the birthplace of the Qornet Shehwan gathering (which grouped the Christian personalities “critical” towards Syria and which latter became the christian branch of the March 14th coalition)…

Now let’s get to the details: it’s the fiefdom of two of the most prominent representatives of the Christian group within the March 14th coalition. Both personalities had failed to win a seat in the previous elections. Theose two men are: 

- Amin Gemayel, leader of the Kataeb (formerly, Lebanon’s largest political party). He wasn’t able to regain “his family’s seat” that his assassinated son occupied in the 2007 by-elections.

- Nassib Lahoud, leader of the Democratic Renewal (hardly a party by any standard). He lost his (family) seat against Aoun’s candidates in 2005.

Moreover, this region hosts the headquarters of Michel Aoun‘s Free Patriotic Movement (the leader’s dwelling of course), and for years, it was in the tight grip of Michel Murr, the emblem of political corruption, clientelism, dirty politics, smart and opportunist political maneuvering. 

Although the battle is between Aoun on one side, and Gemayel and Lahoud on the other, the main star is no other than Murr. During the Syrian “mandate”, this man controlled one of the three largest pro-syrian christian blocs in parliament (the two others were controlled by Hariri and Jumblatt). He had entered an alliance with Aoun (the symbol of the “resistance” to Syrian occupation) when the wind changed, accepting to reduce his parliamentary bloc to one person: himself. This being said, his political downsizing on the parliamentary scene was not met with a reduction in political weight within the State’s institutions. Even though “in opposition”, he still held his leverage and power within several administrations belonging to the Ministry of the Interior.

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