Beirut: Sulaiman Franjieh, the pro-Syrian Marada Movement leader and current presidential nominee of Sa’ad Hariri’s anti-Syrian Future Movement, has posted a video online that is being interpreted as a clear derogatory message to his rival in the presidential race, Free Patriotic Movement founder Michel Aoun.
The video, which is available on YouTube, shows a remote-controlled toy car with orange wheels — the colour of the FPM — that is spinning around, banging against the wall, and otherwise moving randomly in a clear sign of desperation.
Although some interpreted the video as mimicking current conditions in Lebanon as presidential contenders bargain with each other for the best possible deals, others perceived it as a reference to foreign power operations, and how they manipulate Lebanese elites via remote control.
The video has been widely shared by Lebanese politicians and citizens alike.
One blogger, “ex-fpm”, affirmed that “the video’s message [depicted] Lebanon’s crazy situation. A nation without purpose, direction, or leadership”. Another, “Barrymore”, added the Aoun car “goes forward, backwards, changes course and alliances, has a tantrum, climbs up the wall in hysteria and is remotely controlled”.
Even if it was meant for entertainment, the video seems to send a very specific message to Aoun, whose chances to become president, a position he has long coveted for, dimmed after Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah urged him a few days ago to hold consultations with Franjieh and Speaker Nabih Berri to end the deadlock.
While Aoun is Hezbollah’s candidate for president, the fact that he has not been elected yet has led to speculation that Damascus is not serious about allowing him to reach the post.
Before Aoun became allied with Damascus, he led Lebanese Forces in a “War of Liberation” against Syrian occupation of Lebanon, during the country’s civil war.
Damascus has not forgotten this, despite Aoun’s shift in allegiance, upon returning to Lebanon after living in nearly 15 years in exile in Paris.
While the pro-Hezbollah daily Al Akhbar claimed on Saturday that Hariri was ready to back Aoun for president, the report did not offer actual evidence. With Franjieh yet to withdraw his nomination, observers believe the media reports speculating over the presidency only serve to confuse and misinform.
Hariri’s recent consultations triggered a flurry of reports about a possible presidential settlement, implying that the former Prime Minister had made a deal with Aoun, though he has not said anything to confirm various allegations mostly made by March 8 tenors.
In December 2005, Hariri abandoned the anti-Syrian March 14 contender, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, and nominated Franjieh for the presidency.
The decision shocked many as Franjieh is well-known for his close ties to Damascus and personal friendship with Bashar Al Assad.
After Hariri’s flip-flop, another shocking development occurred when Geagea reconciled with his FPM rival and backed him for the presidency.
Meanwhile, several Christian parties, as well as Hezbollah, rejected Hariri’s nomination of Franjieh.
Lebanon has been without a president since the term of Michel Sulaiman ended on May 24, 2014.
Despite Aoun having the votes needed to reach the presidency, Hezbollah and March 8 allies continue to boycott parliament sessions and appoint him.
This has led many to believe that Damascus is not interested in electing a president in Lebanon at this point and is satisfied with the status quo.