I haven’t had much to say in this space about Lebanese presidential politics — mostly because I haven’t had much to say about the subject, full stop. A recent interaction with a well-placed Aounist, however, has made me question some of what I think about the situation. Up till now, the only interaction I’ve had with Aounists, like with most other political parties here, has been with the rank and file, the man on the street who has no more inside information than I do. And the orange man on the street seems pretty practical. While he really wants Aoun to be the president, wishful thinking aside, he doesn’t really believe that it’s possible any more. He’d be content with a compromise candidate along the lines of General Michel Sulaiman.
Recently, though, I had a discussion with someone higher up in the hierarchy, someone who had inside information. Although this person didn’t give me many specifics, he did stress that Aoun would be president. I asked him if he meant that Aoun should be president or that Aoun would actually be president. He replied, “both.” Then I asked if I should consider that remark to be from him personally or him as a party member. Again the answer was “both.”
There are three possibilities here. First, it’s possible that there is information to which I’m not privy, information which will assure an Aoun victory and prove my general sense of Lebanese politics to be wrong. I don’t think this is the case, but that’s partially why my general sense of Lebanese politics is as it is. Second, it’s possible that I wasn’t getting a straight answer and that this person was just giving me the party line. This seems logical and likely, but judging from the intensity and earnestness of his discourse, I don’t think it’s the case. Finally, I think it’s most likely that this person was so personally and emotionally invested in the campaign that he couldn’t really see straight anymore. This seems to be a common symptom of junior partisans who have neither the clear sighted detraction of the man on the street nor the cynical wisdom of the senior apparatchik.
In any case, not only did this person tell me that Aoun would definitely be president, but he also said that the Aounists would not accept anything less. I have the sneaking suspicion that when all is said and done, and the presidential deals have been done in smokey back rooms in Paris, Washington and Damascus, the orange upper echelons and the rank and file will be unsurprised, leaving the more zealous junior party members with inside information completely disillusioned.