A quick update on the previous post:
The Aouneh convoy is getting bigger. I stopped counting at 40 cars. There were also a couple big buses. However, only one car was waving Lebanese flags. The remainder, including the two buses, were all waving orange flags. The reason is clear: over the past two days, Aoun and his supporters have been placed on the defensive. Friday night, 94 FPM supporters made a declaration on TV saying that they were leaving the FPM camp and were very disappointed in Aoun. The following days dozens more joined the choir.
Saturday evening, MP Saad Hariri made an interview on Future TV. In this interview he stated that he would not be surprised if MPs from the FPM and the Reform and Change parliamentary bloc chose to abandon the general. With Keserwan MP Naamtallah Abi Nasr out of the picture and now talks of Metn MP Ghassan Mkhayber following suit, such a prediction is not so far fetched. Other people like Farid El Khazen are considered to be anomalies in the bloc. Since El Khazen is not a member of the FPM but is only listed on the parliamentary bloc, the AUB professor has a lot of leeway and freedom to leave the bloc whenever he chooses to do so.
The Aouneh honking is still on: it’s been going on for the past 45 minutes. Although many have gone down, nazlit Sofil is now empty, however, the honks can still be heard loud and clear. FPM supporters must be driving around Achrafieh and Gemayzeh. The FPM is obviously feeling a lot of pressure following media reports that stated that very few Christians were present Friday afternoon. Friday, leaders of the March 8 movement told their supporters to go down with Lebanese flags. The move was smart because it poses a literal threat to the vision Seniora and the March 14 movement have for Lebanon. However, it is also a mask: the Lebanese flag hides the numbers of Shi’as versus Christians: no one would be able to accurately claim that there weren’t enough Christians present because no one would be able to count the number of orange, yellow, and green scarfs. However, all one has to do is count how many convoys went down from Achrafieh to note that the Christian presence was very weak.
The fact that the current FPM convoy that has been at it for almost an hour is only waving orange flags with the exception of one car, shows that the FPM is trying to show that Christians are going down. They are now differentiating themselves from those who are only waving Lebanese flags to counter media reports. However, the move is obviously on the defensive and is an organized response dictated by higher officials and not by the grassroot FPM supporters.
In his speech, Aoun criticized the media for making such reports, stating, “Shame on you to differentiate one sect from another… we’ve gathered under the Lebanese flag.” The practical aspect of populist speech is one’s ability to twist the speech at will to fit the current circumstances. What Aoun does not get is that those gathered under the Lebanese flag are not there for Lebanese prerogatives. A broader project that has been endorsed by Syria and Iran is in the making and the General feels he is under no obligation to address this reality.
December 3, 2006