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WikiLeaks: 2009-06-12: 09BEIRUT659: Lebanon: Aoun Re-Emerges, Demanding Proportional Cabinet Share

by WikiLeaks. 09BEIRUT659: June 12, 2009.

Posted: Monday, December 30, 2013 at 08:10 PM UT


Viewing cable 09BEIRUT659, LEBANON: AOUN RE-EMERGES, DEMANDING PROPORTIONAL

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Reference ID Created Classification Origin
09BEIRUT659 2009-06-12 14:45 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Beirut
VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHLB #0659/01 1631445
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 121445Z JUN 09
FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5119
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 3401
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 3920
RHMCSUU/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
C O N F I D E N T I A L BEIRUT 000659 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR NEA/FO, NEA/ELA 
ALSO FOR IO A/S BRIMMER 
P FOR DRUSSELL, RRANGASWAMY 
USUN FOR WOLFF/GERMAIN/SCHEDLBAUER 
NSC FOR SHAPIRO, MCDERMOTT 
DOD/OSD FOR FLOURNOY/KAHL/DALTON 
DRL/NESA FOR WHITMAN 
OVP FOR HMUSTAFA 
PARIS FOR RWALLER 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/10/2019 
TAGS: PREL PGOV PTER PINR UNSC LE
SUBJECT: LEBANON: AOUN RE-EMERGES, DEMANDING PROPORTIONAL 
CABINET SHARE 
 
REF: BEIRUT 654 
 
Classified By: Ambassador Michele J. Sison for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
 
SUMMARY 
-------- 
 
1. (C) Following his Change and Reform parliamentary bloc's 
June 10 meeting and in his first public appearance since the 
June 7 parliamentary elections, MP Michel Aoun announced that 
if there is a national unity government, his parliamentary 
bloc would expect a share of seats proportional to its 
representation in parliament, six or seven in a 30-member 
cabinet.  Aoun noted that he supports giving the President 
the blocking minority in the new cabinet if the constitution 
is amended to reflect this, rather than it being negotiated 
with each new cabinet.  He also stated that his bloc will 
contest the victory by two March 14 candidates in the Metn 
district (Aoun won six seats there).  Aoun's ally in Zahle 
may context March 14's sweep of seven seats there.  Aounist 
MPs urged to DCM that the United States "turn the page" on 
its distant relationship with Aoun.  End summary. 
 
AOUN WANTS 7 OUT 
OF 30 MINISTERS 
---------------- 
 
2. (SBU) MP Michel Aoun's Change and Reform parliamentary 
bloc convened June 10, the first time following the June 7 
elections.  Aoun's bloc now consists of 27 MPs including 
Marada party leader and newly-elected MP Suleiman Franjieh 
and head of the Lebanese Democratic party, Druze MP Talal 
Arslan. 
 
3. (SBU) During a televised interview following the meeting, 
Aoun's first public appearance since the June 7 parliamentary 
elections, he stated that while the opposition did not win 
the majority, "It still maintains the popular majority" and 
will "insist their participation in the government should be 
based on proportional representation." 
 
4. (SBU) Aoun clarified that if there is a national unity 
government, his parliamentary bloc would expect a share of 
seats proportional to its representation in parliament, six 
or seven in a 30-member cabinet.  (Note:  Aoun has five 
ministers in the current cabinet.  End note.)  He added that 
since he represents 50 percent of the Christian votes, he is 
entitled to 50 percent of the Christian ministers in cabinet 
(or one-fourth of the cabinet, which must be split equally 
between Muslims and Christians).  Aoun supported giving the 
President authority to name some members of the cabinet, but 
said the constitution must be amended to reflect a set number 
for the president, rather than it being negotiated it each 
time.  Furthermore, Sleiman's seats should come from all 
confessions, rather than just Christians. 
 
WILL CHALLENGE 
MURR'S ELECTION 
--------------- 
 
5. (C) Aoun said his bloc will contest election results in 
one district before the Constitutional Council, accusing MP 
Michel Murr of intimidation and threat in the Metn district. 
(Note:  Aoun was referring to the June 7 video broadcast on 
his OTV network showing Murr threatening Syriac Orthodox 
priest Elias Akkary with the help of armed supporters of his 
son, Defense Minister Elias Murr.  Michel Murr was allied 
with Aoun until 2008, but ran against him in this election. 
End note.)  We also have heard that an opposition MP in Zahle 
may contest March 14's sweep of that district's seven seats. 
 
PREFERS SINIORA, 
OVER SAAD, AS NEXT PM 
--------------------- 
 
6. (SBU) Asked if his bloc will vote for Speaker Nabih Berri 
 
to retain his speaker position, Aoun replied, "Is there any 
other candidate?  If there is another, we will see."  As for 
the premiership, if he had to choose between Prime Minister 
Fouad Siniora and majority leader Saad Hariri, Aoun answered, 
"I prefer the original one (Hariri), why accept the fake one 
(Siniora)?"  Comment: there seems to be wide acceptance among 
opposition figures that Saad should be PM.  End comment 
 
AOUN MP'S URGE U.S. TO 
"TURN THE PAGE" WITH AOUN 
------------------------- 
 
7. (C) DCM met June 11-12 with four Aounist MPs who won 
election.  One, Ibrahim Kanaan, said his personal view is 
that Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement deputies should not join 
the new cabinet.  Instead, he argued, March 14 should be 
accountable for governing themselves and not be able to use 
the excuse, as they have up until now, that the opposition's 
presence in the cabinet has blocked progress on issues. 
According to Kanaan, President Sleiman is damaged following 
his well-known support for opponents of Aoun who either lost 
or did poorer than expected. 
 
8. (C) Kanaan and MP Farid el-Khazen urged that the United 
States "turn the page" on its distant relationship with Aoun. 
 They argued that Aoun showed again his strength among 
Lebanese Christians in the election, has no intention of 
trying to remove President Sleiman so that Aoun can become 
president and supports many reforms the United States should 
support, such as anti-corruption measures. 
 
9. (C) In a separate meeting with Pol/Off, Aoun press advisor 
May Akl admitted that the FPM had lost some Christian support 
because of its allegiance with Hizballah.  Suggesting that 
Aoun himself felt the same way, Akl said the FPM had not 
gotten much out of its alliance and felt Hizballah needed to 
do more to support its Christian ally.  Echoing MP Kanaan's 
complaints, she said Hariri was being hypocritical by using 
the Aoun-Hizballah alliance to scare Christian voters 
pre-elections, but now that he has won, he is extending a 
hand to the group.  Akl suggested that if FPM did not get his 
"fair share" in the cabinet, the FPM might decide not to 
participate in the government.  She also relayed that the FPM 
would fight to keep Aoun advisor and son-in-law Gebran 
Bassil, who failed to secure an MP seat in Batroun, as 
Telecom Minister. 
 
SULEIMAN FRANJIEH 
----------------- 
 
10. (C) Meanwhile, advisors to opposition Christian Marada 
leader Suleiman Franjieh Rony Arayji and Richard Haykal were 
clearly happy with Marada's newly-won three seats (all in 
Zgharta) in parliament.  In a June 11 meeting with Pol/Econ 
Chief and Senior LES Political Advisor, they admitted that 
Franjieh's list won by a narrow margin, but attributed this 
to vote buying and expatriate votes, some using illegal ID. 
Nationally, they viewed the electoral results as a loss for 
the Patriarch, President Sleiman, and the United States, 
which they accused of hedging its bets on the creation of an 
independent bloc close to the President. 
 
11. (C) The advisors confirmed that Marada would be part of 
Aoun's bloc and would follow his lead on cabinet formation. 
Asked if Marada was seeking a Ministry, they said it was up 
to Aoun.  Haykal (an AmCit and Vice President of AmCham) 
argued that Marada's participation in the next government 
also would depend on the government program, which he argued 
should clearly lay out a road map to implement political and 
economic reforms, a reference to the National Dialogue, and a 
commitment to increasing the powers of the President.  He 
also insisted that all sensitive issues, including 
Hizballah's arms but also issues like a new electoral law, be 
discussed first in the Dialogue, rather than the cabinet or 
parliament.  (Haykal's boss Franjieh will be a new 
participant in the Dialogue as a result of his electoral 
 
victory.) 
 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
12. (C) The comments by Aoun's and Franjieh's advisors 
indicate the Christian opposition's demands, more than those 
of Hizballah, may cause delay in cabinet formation.  While 
Hizballah's interest lies more in preserving the blocking 
third to protect its arms, Aoun's motivation is pure power, 
and ensuring that he receives the recognition he believes he 
deserves as representative of most (albeit less than before) 
Christians.  Thus, although there is nothing in the 
constitution that says cabinet must reflect representation in 
parliament, the early signs are that Aoun and his allies will 
push for a quarter of the ministerial positions. 
 
13. (C) Add to this the inevitable competition between March 
14 Christian leaders Samir Geagea and Amine Gemayel for the 
March 14 Christian cabinet positions and we conclude that it 
could be a long time before cabinet formation is finally 
complete.  Geagea's Lebanese Forces (LF) and Gemayel's Kataeb 
each received five seats in the new parliament, with Geagea 
claiming three more independents in his bloc for a total of 
eight.  Their fierce intra-March 14 battle for cabinet seats 
was a primary reason last year's cabinet formation process 
dragged on for six weeks. End comment. 
SISON

 



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