Michel Aoun: I Oppose Extending Army Commander’s Term

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A handout picture released by Dalati and Nohra shows Lebanese President Michel Sleiman (C) speaking with Army Forces Commander General Jean Kahwaji (C-R) upon his arrival in the east Lebanon village of Arsal, near the Syrian border during a tour of the region on 29 May 2013. (Photo: AFP - AFP - HO/ Dalati And Nohra)

By: Hiyam Kossayfi

Published Thursday, June 27, 2013

Once again, Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun finds himself alone. His parliamentary bloc was the sole opposition to parliament’s extension, just as they plan to oppose any extension to army chief Jean Kahwaji’s term.

Hiyam Kossayfi (HK): While people are still basking in the army’s victory in Saida, you’ve announced your intention to oppose any extension for the head of the army. Is this the right time to raise such an issue?

Michel Aoun (MA): It wasn’t me who started the fight around an extension. It was [Future Party leader] Saad Hariri who wanted to take advantage of people’s feelings in order to pass the illegal extension. I am against extensions when it comes to such public service positions.

There are laws that we must respect, otherwise, why have rules and regulations only to make exceptions? There are plans to hold a parliamentary session in which they will propose an extension, and I wanted to present our point of view on the matter. The question is: Who is proposing the draft law and why is it being treated as urgent?

HK: But there is no government today to appoint a new military commander?

MA: We have three months left, why the hurry? The draft law proposes a three-year extension for the top officers, which will result in a bunch of old people in the army. Can a field commander operate like a lawyer or an ambassador from behind a desk?

HK: And if the law passes, will you appeal?

MA: I will appeal and I have already prepared for such a course.

HK: Saad Hariri may have proposed the idea before parliament, but it was your allies who broached the subject with you?

MA: What’s the problem? Not long ago I appealed parliament’s extension before the Constitutional Council. Am I obligated to go along with what I consider violations of the constitution? What is the worth of my Change and Reform parliamentary bloc if I agree with legislation that runs counter to the law?

HK: But where will all this opposition lead your parliamentary bloc?

MA: I cannot possibly sit by and watch state institutions be destroyed one after the other -- laws are violated along with the constitution, without regard for the system of regulations. How do we govern without laws, or a constitution, or any kind fixed principles? The constitution and the law will merely become points of view, nothing more.

HK: Your allies stood against you before and now they’re doing it again. Your enemies will only multiply. How long are you willing to take such solitary positions?

MA: The dispute is not with Hezbollah. It is with [Speaker of Parliament] Nabih Berri, unless Hezbollah decides to support the extension. We disagreed on the parliamentary extension, but I think that is something that can be repaired. I don’t want to get ahead of myself, let’s just see what happens.

HK: Is the alliance between you still in effect?

MA: We are not copies of one another. We disagreed on three occasions: Nahr al-Bared, the electricity workers’ labor dispute, and the election law. Disagreement becomes bothersome to an alliance when they increase, and a reassessment may be in order.

HK: Are you considering a reassessment of your relationship with Hezbollah?

MA: I am speaking in generalities here. Everyone has a limit as to how much they can take, and when they reach that point, then a reassessment may be in order. It could keep you where you are, or prompt you to change your position, which is the more likely outcome.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.


Michel Aoun loses nothing by objecting to the extension of Jean Kahwaji. In fact he gains more Christians for his base by differentiating the FPM from Berri and the HA.

Just as the FPM can not form a coalition without Amal and HA, Ha and Amal can not form a coalition without the FPM. There are far more urgent issues than just this extension.

Auon can take the principled stand which will serve both the FPM and Lebanon in the long run. The other parties just keep showing how amenable they are to shredding the Constitution for themselves.

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