Lebanese President Michel Aoun’s son-in-law took a major step towards splitting from his political camp by calling on the people to “rebel” against the ruling authority as the country grapples with its worst economic crisis in decades.
Tensions have been high between Chamel Roukoz and Aoun’s other son-in-law and divisive figure, MP Gebran Bassil, who now heads the Free Patriotic Movement, which was founded by the president.
Roukoz has been vocal in his support for popular protests that erupted against the ruling elite in October 2019. Bassil had received a lot of the demonstrators’ ire during the rallies.
As the economy flounders and more and more people find themselves in poverty, Roukoz appears more committed to the uprising than ever, predicting that a second wave of protests will soon erupt.
At a press conference over the weekend, he severed what appeared to be his last remaining ties with Bassil, calling on the people to rise up against the authority.
“Rebelling is a pillar of real freedom, while submission is the basis of slavery,” he said. “The people have grown hungry. When pockets and stomachs become empty and when fathers and mothers can no longer feed their children, then revolution and rebelling become the only means to regain dignity.”
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat after the press conference, Roukoz said that he resorted to harsh rhetoric because the Lebanese have reached a “tragic” point.
“No matter how harsh my words get, they will not reach the hardship endured by the people,” he stated.
The rebellion he spoke about is not related to the presidency, he clarified, saying that Lebanon is built on a democratic, not a presidential system.
His call for rebellion was directed to officers and judges who have the “primary” responsibility in saving Lebanon, he explained.
He also dismissed as “superficial” the reactions to his press conference. On his relations with Aoun and Bassil, he said: “The president is still the president, as for the others, they are the others.”
Tensions between Roukoz and Bassil first emerged when the latter won uncontested a second term as president of the FPM. The win had disappointed several Aounists, who had defected from the movement when Bassil, a former foreign minister, had assumed its presidency the first time back in 2015.
Divisions grew between the sons-in-law in wake of the stances made by Bassil’s Strong Lebanon parliamentary bloc, which Roukoz eventually split from.