Deep split within FPM over future leadership


aoun ( L)  bassilChange and Reform parliamentary bloc plans to hold a closed meeting next week amidst reports of possible resignation of Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun and deep splits in the party over the future leadership of FPM.

Aoun reportedly said last month during a gathering that he would establish and train a cadre to continue the FPM path after him, suggesting that he may step down as formal head of the party, since there were “many competent” FPM officials qualified to succeed him.

But according to observers and party insiders , Aoun’s son-in-law, caretaker Energy Minister Gebran Bassil is Aoun’s preferred candidate and likely heir and this is creating a deep split within the party ranks.

In remarks published by Al-Joumhouria newspaper on Saturday, MP Nabil Nicolas , a key FPM member said that the FPM did not practice “political inheritance.”

“The issue of political inheritance regarding the leadership of the FPM is out of the question.”

MP Alain Aoun , nephew of MP Michel Aoun told Al-Joumhouria that proposing caretaker Energy Minister Gebran Bassil for the leadership of the FPM was “premature.

“There’s a party institution that should mature and implement its internal rule at the right time, as well as decide on the distribution of roles and positions of responsibility within it. Only then would names be proposed for these positions.” Alain Aoun said.

The closed meeting also comes at a time of strained relations between the FPM and some of its key allies, notably the Amal Movement and the Marada Movement, the Daily Star reported.

An FPM source close to Aoun who requested to remain anonymous said that many FPM officials were fed up with Bassil’s domination of the FPM and the special relation between him and Aoun.

The source said that the closed meeting was an attempt to reunify ranks within the party, but predicted it would fail to accomplish its objective and ruled out that it would lead to any change on the party’s structure that might avert a crisis.

“I think the closed meeting is too little , too late,” retired Gen. Elias Hanna , who has been critical of Aoun in the past was quoted as saying. “Whoever wants to resign from the Free Patriotic Movement has already done so and many are already disappointed by its performance.”

“The Free Patriotic Movement is approaching the upcoming phase when none of the young men who took part in the [movement’s] struggle occupy a political post except the brother-in-law and the nephew,” Hanna continued. “What is being prepared for the future of the movement?”

Aoun’s recent stances have put him at odds with his allies on several occasions recently.

Aoun’s opposition to extending Parliament’s term did not prevent it from taking place in June, after the move gained support by most political parties, including FPM allies Hezbollah, Amal and the Marada Movement.

Aoun was also alone in opposing the decision to extend the term of Army commander Gen. Jean Kahwaji for two years, a move which took place in July.

The Orthodox Gathering Electoral proposal, championed by Aoun, was also not passed by Parliament after its rival the Lebanese Forces went back on its support at the eleventh hour.

Hanna revealed that there was a high level of uncertainty regarding the future of the FPM.

The closed meeting will be held on Oct.11 in Deir al-Qalaa in the Metn village of Beit Merry, and attended by MPs of Aoun’s bloc along with caretaker ministers loyal to him.

The date is symbolic, as it comes two days before Oct. 13, which marks 23 years since Aoun’s forces were defeated by the Syrian Army . Aoun’s defeat was followed by 15 years of exile in France