Beirut – Internal divisions inside Lebanon’s Free Patriotic Movement – led by General Michel Aoun and presided over by his son-in-law, Foreign Affairs Minister Gebran Bassil – have drastically increased in the wake of party elections aimed at choosing candidates for the country’s next parliamentary polls.
The elections saw the victory of several opponents to Bassil in various electoral districts, paving the way for an anti-Aoun movement that would include FPM supporters outside Lebanon. Sources close to Bassil said that such movements would decrease Aoun’s likelihood to become the country’s president.
Hundreds of voters cast ballots on Sunday to choose the party’s candidates for Lebanon’s coming parliamentary elections. The preliminary election, which is the first of its kind in the Middle Eastern country, came few days after the FPM expelled four of its prominent members – a move that caused a big wave of disappointment among a large number of party supporters.
The FPM expelled the prominent members Ziad Abs, Naim Aoun, Antoine Nasrallah and Paul Abi Haidar on charges of “committing repeated public and blatant violations that contradict with the simplest rules of organizational discipline despite repeated warnings.”
In a statement, the FPM also warned all members against “tackling the movement’s internal affairs in the media and on social networking websites.”
This move prompted many FPM supporters to vote against the Aoun-Bassil group. Ziad Abs received 170 votes against 184 votes received by his main contestant, former Minister Nicolas Sehnaoui, in Beirut’s first electoral district.
The dispute had first erupted over Abs’ opposition to the FPM’s alliance in Beirut’s municipal elections. The dispute pitted him against former FPM minister Nicolas Sehnaoui.
Naim Aoun, a nephew of the founder, and the other two FPM founding members were called before an FPM disciplinary tribunal because they criticized Bassil during a television interview on July 16.
Sources close to Michel Aoun’s internal opposition movement, which is mainly led by Naim Aoun and former FPM officials Antoine Mukheiber, Ramzi Kanj, Nasrallah and Abs, said that the recent elections have confirmed that a large number of FPM voters were not supportive of Bassil and his current leadership. The sources added that the major results achieved by the opposition in most of the electoral districts were a clear proof of this fact.
The opposition sources told Asharq al-Awsat newspaper that such divisions would not threaten Aoun’s chances to become Lebanon’s president, as the issue of presidency was mainly dominated by external factors and could not be affected by internal disagreements.