Worried Lebanese

thought crumbs on lebanese and middle eastern politics

March 14th washes whiter than white!

Posted by worriedlebanese on 19/03/2009

4 After presenting the setting and the main protagonists, it’s time to get to the action.

During the past year, Michel Murr decided to drift away from Michel Aoun’s bloc and proclaim his independence. As expected, this move was more than welcomed by the March 14th alliance’s Christian branch. 

Since 2005, Murr had hardly missed any of the FPM’s weekly meetings in Rabieh (Aoun’s dwelling), where he sat on the right of Michel Aoun. But on the onset of election year, he put himself on the political market, proclaiming his independence and his readiness to negotiate a new alliance.

What are Michel Murr’s assets?

– A large network of clients based on his past control and prevailing leverage within the Ministry of the Interior (that he ceded to his son in 2000) and other ministries and state institutions in which he placed his men (and sometimes women). This leverage extends to a great number of municipalities in the Metn that he harnessed financially for many years and in which he has many faithful civil servants. 

– An old alliance with Tashnag, a prominent Armenian party with a very disciplined popular base. It can sway the vote of most Armenians voting in the district.

– A great number of recently naturalised Lebanese who feel indebted towards Murr for the granting of the citizenship (he was Minister of the Interior then), and some of which have previously been threatened by him if they failed to vote in favor of him. I remember quite vividly an incident where policemen came to visit a recently naturalised citizen to remind him for whom he should be voting and warning him that he would be stripped of his nationality if he failed to oblige. 

During the present legislature, Michel Aoun and his block did nothing to curb Michel Murr’s power based on the very principles the FPM vowed to combat. This proved the March 14th coalition right in their criticism of the alliance between the two Michels in 2005. 

However, since the end of 2008, the christian figures of the March 14th alliance have been extremely courteous towards Michel Murr, and today, Amin Gemayel and Nassib Lahoud are trying to strike an agreement with him to run on the same slate, one in which Michel Murr seems to want half of the seats for the very least.

Has Michel Murr changed? Not in his conduct. But he is no longer untouchable in the eyes of the majority. Powerful, respectable, immaculate once again.

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