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Aoun: Either Bassil or 'I Won't Hand Presidency to Void!”

Aoun: Either Bassil or 'I Won't Hand Presidency to Void!”

Thursday, 25 November, 2021 - 13:15

Today (Thursday), the countdown starts for the 340 days left for Lebanon's presidential term. As the declaration of the state of Greater Lebanon enters its second century, many Lebanese shares the view that there is no need to commemorate independence that is being squandered. There is also no need for a traditional speech so long as the man giving it is not prepared to apologize and ask forgiveness for the state Lebanon is in. The past five years, given all the misery they have brought upon citizens, seem to have been long. From another perspective, they have been short. That is how one sees it looking through the lens of how quickly the shift in most peoples’ lives. Very swiftly, they went from enjoying social and economic stability to living in poverty, destitution, and genuine fear for their ability to go on, whether because of the creeping famine or their inability to access basic health care.

The profitable policy of pushing Lebanon into the Iranian axis has isolated that country, which has been crumbling under the weight of collapses, to no surprise to any of the members of the ruling clique. The financial and economic collapses, the dramatic bankruptcies, including the seizure of deposits, and the exacerbating unemployment crisis, were expected by those holding the reins of decision-making in the country. Starting in 2016, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund reports came in, one after the other, warning of the risks of the drops in Lebanon’s credit rating. It regressed four positions in three years, dropping to “C,” meaning that the country had entered a highly dangerous phase! Expert voices grew louder, warning that persisting with the same policies would lead to a catastrophic financial and economic collapse. Nonetheless, the authorities continued to opt for the policy of deception: the Lira is fine!

Every member of the ruling clique knows that the other side of the coin of Lebanon’s diplomatic isolation from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states and the steps of economic divestment being taken is the state withering away and being hijacked through weapons. That process began over a decade ago when the statelet began expanding its say and undermining internal balances. This course peaked with the presidential deal of 2016 agreed to with Hezbollah. In the final analysis, the officials had their heads buried in the sand while Lebanon was being turned into a platform for attacking the region on behalf of the Mullah’s regime in Iran.

Throughout Aoun’s presidency, he did not deviate from a disruptive, populist course that characterized his “alliance” with “Hezbollah,” which has allowed them to impose their will. From occupying Downtown Beirut after the July 2006 war to consistently delaying the formation of governments for long months and delaying parliament’s election of the president of the republic for 30 months, the course of obstruction continued with Aoun’s ascension to the presidency. The goal was and remains to impose his will and make factional gains. Indeed, the president, given all of his obstruction, seemed to be in the “opposition”. The exacerbating deterioration of living conditions or the financial and economic crises did not compel him to make any reconsideration. He was not deterred from continuing with this obstructive approach by the estrangement with the Gulf countries and its frightening future repercussions!

Moreover, the president doesn’t seem bothered that Hezbollah turned the current government into a corpse only 32 days after it was formed. Besides the stances declared when foreign visitors are received, on fulfilling constitutional duties and implementing constitutional decisions, the president has not taken any initiative to end the disruption and the hijacking of the council of ministers’ role and authority. He also seemed “neutral” on the judiciary and justice being targeted, the efforts to solidify immunities and leave officials above the law, and the support being shown for impunity through the currently successful disruption of the investigation into the port crime and the provocative demand that Lead Investigator Tarek Bitar be “removed.” He has always demonstrated indifference towards the investigation being drowned with lawsuits raised to “dismiss” the lead investigator, tie his hands, and go against the state… Throughout, Hezbollah has been exploiting the peoples’ suffering to impose its conditions, which in the end, serve the purpose of seizing the country and tying it to the Greater Iranian project! Meanwhile, the president’s considerations do not clash with the course being taken by the statelet, which aims to disrupt the constitutional process and the parliamentary and presidential elections.

Through his populist obstruction, regardless of the implications, it has had on the lives of the majority of the Lebanese, Michel Aoun wants to ensure that the Presidency of the Republic stays in the family through his son-in-law, Bassil, moving into the Presidential Palace! It is no secret that he made this promise in the first year of his presidency! Some may have convinced him that the conditions of 2021 and his reliance on the statelet’s arsenal make things more favorable than they had been in 1989, when he headed a transitional government whose mission was to elect a new president of the republic and announced the dissolution of parliament, making this mission impossible! However, the conclusion of the Taif Agreement and the declaration of the National Accord Document nullified his decisions, turning him into an insurgent. The rest of the story is well documented; he is the one responsible for drawing the Syrian regime’s occupation army to the Republican Palace after fleeing to the French embassy!

Because no priority comes before that of ensuring that Bassil succeeds him, Aoun jumped directly to the presidential election, warning that “no president who comes after me will be like those who preceded me.” Speaking to the Al-Akhbar newspaper on the 19th and the French language daily, L’Orient-Le Jour on the 20th, he revealed what had been hidden, betting that no new president would be elected and that there would be no legitimate government before his term ends, while he will “not hand the presidency to void!” More simply, either you elect Bassil as the next president or disruption will continue and, with it, collapses that cannot be anticipated will arise! On the other hand, the black room has conjured up an unconstitutional ploy to extend Aoun’s term under the pretext of not leaving the position vacant!

It is obvious that the president of the republic, who ignored the collapse, the estrangement with the Gulf states and their repercussions, has used the element of surprise and tried to put Hezbollah, mainly, in an awkward position. He has thus done the same to those behind Hezbollah, the entire axis of resistance, at a decisive moment for the region, a moment in which the pace of change is increasing from Baghdad to Marib and between them Damascus, one that has captured the attention of actors in the region and beyond. While it was natural for him to disregard the positions of members of the ruling clique, he also ignored the people’s reservations. They isolated and punished Bassil before the US imposed its sanctions on him. However, Aoun has nonetheless asked for guarantees regarding the direction Hezbollah is going to take on the question of the next president and the calculations Tehran is making, especially since the president and his movement are losing popular support!

What had been proposed from the sidelines is now on the table. That has put the majority of Lebanese facing a different challenge. It demands going beyond the efforts to elect Bassil president and striving to retrieve the state, thereby liberating the presidency and regaining our independence. It is a challenge that demands that we stand strong during this stage of new suffocating difficulties, during which citizens’ struggles and suffering are exacerbating, as are the repercussions of Lebanon being dominated by Iran. It is a test that has been imposed on the living forces, one that demands a determined effort to uproot the system of corruption, dependence, and subordination!

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