The agreement that was struck between Michel Aoun and Samir Geagea is more important than the presidency itself. But if Aoun doesn’t become president, the Taef Agreement will fall. This is the essence of the meeting in Mehrab. If Aoun reaches the Baabda presidential palace, he would not reach it as a person nor as the leader of the Free Patriotic Movement. But his arrival would mark the return of the Christians’ active participation in the Taef rule. In this sense, Aoun would not be alone in Baabda. Geagea would be there too in the political sense. So would Amin Gemayel, Dory Chamoun, Faris Souaid, and even Suleiman Franjieh. The fact of the matter is that Franjieh cannot play this role. It’s nothing personal. But if Franjieh was able to represent the return of the Christians to power, he would have been the guest of Mehrab instead of Aoun. This does not mean that Franjieh does not seek the Christians’ rights. But the 35-year struggle of the Lebanese Forces has made Mehrab the main gateway to the presidency. Franjieh should now seek to reach an agreement similar to the Document of Intents signed between the LF and the FPM. The effects of such an agreement between Mehrab and Bnashei would be more important than which candidates wins the presidency.
Geagea threw his support behind Aoun and the ball is now in the other side’s court. Had the election happened immediately at the heels of Michel Suleiman’s mandate, then the presidential battle would not have taken this delicate and dangerous turn. There would have been a winner and a loser. And the political tussle between March 8 and March 14 would have continued. But the stalling and the obstruction have given the presidential battle a more important and dangerous dimension: If the biggest Christian political parties are unable to impose a president with limited powers, then what is the point of the Taef constitution and what good can come out of it? If Taef’s godfather, Samir Geagea, and the one who finally accepted Taef, Michel Aoun, sense that the other side in the rule does not view their agreement from a national partnership perspective, then nobody should blame Geagea or Aoun afterward. Geagea wants Aoun to become president under the heading of the National Pact, so that there would not be a winner and a loser in the electoral session. Geagea’s historic move to support Aoun has turned the electoral battle into a battle for Taef’s fate. Everybody should be pleased to fight this battle because everybody would come out a winner. But if the other side will merely stand by and watch Taef vacillating, then how can Taef ever be mended? Under the tutelage of the Syrian regime in the 1990s, Patriarch Sfeir, who also was a main pillar of the Taef Accord, said, “If we are given the choice between freedom and co-existence, we would choose freedom.” Do not force Aoun and Geagea into this choice. The ball is in the court of all those who still support Taef, the way it was meant to be implemented.
(This is an edited translation of an article that appeared in Al-Massira magazine, Jan. 25, 2016 ed.)
by Amjad Iskandar