AOUN, Michel

Michel ‘Aoun is a Lebanese, Maronite-Christian, officer and politician born in 1935. After completing the Military Academy, he followed staff training in France and the USA. In 1984 he was appointed Commander in Chief of the Lebanese armed forces.

When in September 1988 President Amin Jumayyil’s term ended, Parliament was unable to meet and elect a new president. Jumayyil appointed ‘Aoun as acting President.

It was the President’s constitutional right to appoint a temporary successor in the absence of a new elected President. The Prime Minister had to be, according to the Constitution, a Sunni Muslim. ‘Aoun’s appointment was immediately disputed by Prime Minister Salim Al-Houss, who dismissed ‘Aoun from his military command.

‘Aoun’s reaction was to take control of Beirut and parts of the region surrounding it. He soon declared a « war of liberation » against Syria. He could do little but maintain control of Beirut.

When the Parliament met in October 1989 in Ta’if and elected successively two new Presidents: Mu’awhad – who was assassinated the same month – and then Elias Hrawi, ‘Aoun refused to accept the election and maintained that he was the legal head of State.

The various militias arrayed against him and overcame ‘Aoun’s troops – whose resistance was not joined even by the « Lebanese Forces » (Christian militias), while he sought asylum in the French Embassy in October 1990. ‘Aoun was flown to France in late Augustus 1991 where he got political asylum.

He spent 14 years in France where he continues to claim independence of Lebanon towards the Syrian occupier. In 1999, in an interview with the french newspaper « Le figaro, » he said he sees itself as the « standard bearer of the Lebanese resistance. »

Since 2003, after the partial legislative elections, he said that he wished to return to Lebanon after Hikmat Dib, a candidate of the « National Free Courant », has been greeted by a score of newspapers and even without being elected. But he must wait for assurance that it will not be prosecuted because he was tried in absentia late 2003, accused of disturbing Lebanon’s relations with Syria following a statement made in Washington.

In 2005, Omar Karami, the Prime Minister assured him that he can return to Lebanon in safety. Michel Aoun has expressed on many occasions its desire to participate in political life in Lebanon. In this context, he returned on May 7 in Lebanon, a few weeks before the legislative elections scheduled for May 31. In these elections, the opposition forces have at least the support of Michel Aoun for lack of his candidature. This return will take place while the Syrian troops leave Lebanon in accordance with resolution 1559 of the Security Council of the United Nations. The pressure caused by the assassination of Rafik Hariri on February 14 and that exerted by the United States and France appear to be at the root of this Syrian movement.

Michel Aoun seems very popular in Christian circles but also collects supporters in other communities. He has, in fact, this kind of support since rallying from Walid Jumblatt, Druze leader, at specific positions that hitherto were regarded as Christian ones.

On July 19, the block of Michel Aoun (the Block of change and reform) is alone in opposition to the government of Fouad Siniora. Following the Lebanese-Israeli war of 2006 and the resulting tension, Hezbollah and the Amal Movement left the government and approached Michel Aoun. On December 1, 2006 the latter demand the resignation of the cabinet Siniora and continues to do so since.

Michel Aoun appeared as a candidate for the succession of Emile Lahoud in November 2007, but collected no unanimity.