Reducing the entirety of the 2005 elections to duplicitous alliances and reactionary votes, however, overlooks the roll played by key players in key districts which led to the anti-Syrian majority being a simple majority instead of a two-thirds one, as would have been hoped.
In the Metn, the electoral loss of a pillar of the Cedar Revolution movement, Nassib Lahoud, underlined the delicate politics that dictate electioneering in the region, and the name that is the main driver of that electioneering: Murr. Specifically, in the case of the 2005 elections, as in the case of the run-off 2007 elections, that name is Gabriel el Murr...
...well, its really Michel el Murr, but his brother Gabriel, along with Michel’s son Elias, plays a central role in understanding the prime driver behind Michel’s manoeuvres. In his son’s case, one has but to refer to a tried and tested rule: neutral is not good enough. Not for the Syrian regime which continues to work to ensure that it has a say in the naming of every critical position in the country, and the behaviour of that official once he is in that position, just as was the case throughout that country’s occupation of Lebanon.
To the Syrians, Elias el Murr was considered a write-off (to use a euphemism) when he refused to “take an order” from the Syrian front-man in the country in 2004, Rustom Ghazali. The assassination attempt on Elias that followed in 2005, coming as it did among the wave of anti-Syrian assassinations, was considered a clearing of accounts by the regime and underlined, for the short run, the stance of the regime vis-a-vis the scion of the Murr family name.
And yet the Murrs, to date, are not a “March” name. While the assassination attempt ruled them out of March 8 status, the family itself would not thrust itself into the March 14 movement (as evidenced by the run-off election of 2007). The reason for that was the presence of long-time family rival, Gabriel el Murr, among the ranks of the March 14 precursor (and soon to be regenerated) alliance of Christian independents known as the Qornet Shehwan Gathering. Here I’d like to note that no less than three of the gathering’s members (Gebran Tueni, Pierre Gemayel, and Antoine Ghanem) have been the victims of assassinations organised/ordered by the Syrian regime.
The close relation between Nassib Lahoud and Gabriel el Murr, and the latter’s presence in the ranks of the March 14 movement (through the Qornet Shehwan Gathering) since its inception are the primary drivers for the group’s consistent losses [to Michel Aoun’s bloc] in the Metn over the past two elections - and nothing else.
Now two events seem to underline the fact that Michel Aoun certainly will not be the beneficiary of the Murr Metn electoral machine: Murr’s full swing into the budding parliamentary camp of the new President, Michel Suleiman [through his stance throughout the Presidential crisis]; and his swing into the same ministerial camp [through his son’s appointment to the Ministry of Defence – a position assigned from the President’s cabinet share]. Both of these positions broke, cleanly, with the Orange General who was a main obstructer of Suleiman’s election, and who has since gone on to obstruct the formation the first cabinet under the new President by giving voice to Hizballah [and therefore Syria and Iran’s] rejection of Elias el Murr’s nomination to the Ministry of Defence.
No, Aoun will definitely not be the beneficiary, but with no word on the fate of Gabriel el Murr (although the continued closure of his MTV despite the past three years, might provide a hint) within the March 14th movement, it is unclear whether they will be the final beneficiaries of the Murr machine either.
Certainly, the recent visit by Gabriel to the offices of the Armenian Tashnaq party – which continues to occupy the electoral spotlight after its bloc-vote in the Metn 2007 by-elections in Aoun’s favour (at the presumed behest of Michel el Murr) and its seat allocation in the Beirut electoral districting agreement of the Doha Accord – has added fuel to the fiery speculations of either Gabriel’s switch to the SSNP-Aoun voting lists or of Tashnaq’s break with Michel el Murr.
If history and political shrewdness are to be followed, the most probable scenario is likely to witness the emergence of a third, Presidential, faction of Christian candidates in which Murr, anxious to build ties with a President in place for the next six years, and the Armenians, who will most likely hedge their bets between Hariri in Beirut and the President in the Metn, will be leading participants.