Worried Lebanese

thought crumbs on lebanese and middle eastern politics

Self-criticism? Why the FPM lost some popular support…

Posted by worriedlebanese on 25/06/2009

mban2057lTwo days ago, my post ended with a question: Why did Michel Aoun’s FPM loose 20% of its electorate in 4 years? Truth to tell, I was quite surprised by the FPM’s score. I was convinced that it had lost a larger number of supporters or potential voters.

Sure some of its losses could be attributed to its opponents’ electoral conduct. The FPM had to wrestle the National Bloc, the Kataeb, the Lebanese Forces, the National Liberal Party and a flock of notables supported by the religious hierarchies (most notably the Maronite, the Greek-Orthodox and the Syriac higher clergy). People and parties who had little in common, who hated each other’s guts, who were political rivals, were united in a common front against the FPM. Their common and individual campaigns focused on direct attacks on the FPM and personal attacks on Michel Aoun. Their smear campaign was echoed by the Media and the Press that was largely hostile to the FPM and Aoun (LBC, MTV, Future, Nahar, L’Orient-Le Jour, Dyar, Daily Star, NOW…). I find it quite miraculous that Aoun’s FPM survived (& vanquished) the Christian Bulldozer (a Syrian electoral device first experimented by Hezbollah and Amal, and now adopted by March XIV) in Mount Lebanon.

But instead of playing victim, the FPM should reflect on its own conduct and communication strategy. It should examine how these helped all traditional Christian parties and forces coalesce against it. The FPM should also look into why so many journalists and opinion makers are opposed to it. Sure they work for a March XIV controlled media, but that doesn’t explain their personal and individual hostility to the FPM and its leader.

The FPM’s weaknesses:

  • Aoun’s populism. His hostility to journalists (for being inquisitive) and the Media (for distorting his message) in general. If the FPM doesn’t want journalists to be hostile to it, it should learn to speak to them and establish a communication strategy towards journalists and opinion makers (just as the March XIV platform did).
  • The FPM’s “Change and Reform” message. The Christian electorate has traditionally been conservative. Promising change without taking into consideration the demographic shifts in the country can be perceived as adventurous by many. The “third republic” slogan was to say the least sloppy (it’s actually the 4th Republic… if one wants to count each time the 1926 constitution was modified).
  • The FPM’s defensive communication. The FPM established the frames of the electoral debate within the Christian constituencies (it didn’t work on any cross-communal message… call it Christian navel gazing). March XIV simply reacted to the FPM’s positioning and slogans (which was expected). At this point, the FPM started justifying itself… and took a defensive approach.
  • The lack of a clear outlook or identity. March XIV has elaborated a clear identity (albeit an unfounded one) in which people identify with. It tapped into people’s fantasies, imagination and emotions. The FPM hasn’t been able to achieve this.
  • Multiple incoherences: The FPM’s behaviour is similar to that of its opponents. If it wants to distinguish itself from them, it should start by changing its behaviour and work on being more convincing about the change it represents.

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