Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Rival camps dig in heels over Metn by-elections

Rival camps dig in heels over Metn by-elections
Compiled by Daily Star staff

Opportunities to negotiate a settlement concerning the Metn by-election dwindled on Tuesday, with rival parties showing unwillingness to compromise despite mediation efforts led by Maronite bishops and MP Pierre Dakkache. Lebanese newspapers reported Tuesday that consensus was difficult to reach and a battle in the Metn was inevitable. "While [former] President Amin Gemayel sees the by-election as a means to reclaim the seat of his slain son Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel, the Free Patriotic Movement [FPM] headed by MP Michel Aoun considers the by-election a means to measure its popularity on the Christian political scene," said an editorial on Tuesday in the As-Safir newspaper. By-elections will be held on August 5 in the second district of Beirut and in the Mount Lebanon region of Metn to replace slain MPs Walid Eido and Gemayel, respectively.

MP Michel Murr and the Armenian Tashnag Party expressed their support Monday for the FPM's candidate in the Metn by-election. The FPM thus potentially secured a large bloc of the Metn's roughly 32,000 Armenian votes. The Metn electorate numbers 162,950 voters. "My alliance with the FPM and Tashnag is permanent and long-standing," Murr told reporters after a meeting with French envoy Jean-Claude Cousseran on Tuesday. Murr also advised Christian parties against trading accusations regarding the Pierre Gemayel's assassination. Aoun hinted on Monday that Gemayel's assassins could be found inside the government. "Despite everything," Murr added, "mediation efforts are still under way and consensus should not be ruled out."

Meanwhile, well-informed sources told the Central News Agency (CNA) that consensus was still likely to be reached in Metn. Mediation efforts focused mainly on convincing the FPM to withdraw their candidate and accept Gemayel as a consensus choice. CNA also reported that Aoun had suggested postponing the Metn by-election "until a consensus candidate, other than the three candidates currently running, is agreed upon." Gemayel, FPM candidate Camille Khoury and independent Joseph Mansour Asmar are running for the Metn seat.

Also on Tuesday, Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir reiterated his call to various political groups "to reconcile and opt for dialogue instead of battles." However, with Aoun traveling to Germany Tuesday and the deadline for candidates to withdraw from the by-elections at midnight Wednesday, a consensus is far from being reached. Commenting on Aoun's mention of assassins present within the government, Gemayel blasted the retired general Tuesday, saying Aoun's remarks "aim to escalate the problem even more. May God forgive him." "It is known that Aoun is a supporter of wars of elimination, for he never tolerates any competitors," Gemayel said following a meeting with a delegation of bishops dispatched by the Maronite patriarch to try to convince conflicting parties to reconcile. Grand Mufti Mohammad Rashid Qabbani expressed his support for Future Movement (FM) candidate Mohammad Amin Itani in the Beirut by-election where a less-tense battle pits the FM against Ibrahim Halabi, the candidate for the People's Movement headed by former MP Najah Wakim.

No comments:

Naharnet Lebanon News

Marketing in Lebanon