The ambitious and mysterious plans of the FPM’s number two.
There are many things that can be said about the recent, rather clumsy publicity stunts of acting minister Gebran Bassil. It’s not everyday that a man who fails to get elected in a constituency declares himself a hero on billboards at the entrances of that constituency. And it’s not everyday that a divisive Lebanese politician gets portrayed as a heroic cartoon character in a booklet funded by the Lebanese tax payers.
We will be hearing a lot of outrage from the opposing political camp in the next few days, but what’s interesting to us is why Mr. Bassil is doing all of this and what he is expecting to get.
By now most of us know that Mr. Bassil is Michel Aoun’s choice for leading the FPM after he’s gone. Hezbollah have also shown that Mr. Bassil is someone they like doing business with, considering his friendliness to Iranian commercial interests. But Mr. Bassil still has some legitimacy issues to deal with in his party.
The Free Patriotic Movement has formal bylaws and regulations that decide who gets promoted in the ranks. Other bigwigs in the party have arguably better claims to the leadership (not least because of their abilities to win important elections). Sensing Mr. Bassil’s potential vulnerability, Mr. Aoun and his allies have sought to raise his profile and differentiate him from the rest of the FPM apparatchik. As a thought expermient: Can you imagine glorifying billboards or cartoon characters for Minister Nicolas Sahnaoui, an FPM minister who arguably did better for his ministry than Mr. Bassil did for his?
There’s also a more interesting but still speculative possibility. It came to my mind as I was driving by Batroun a few days ago and saw all the fawning billboards (about 5 of them) of his excellency.
What jumped to my mind was not what I saw, but what I didn’t see: Any trace of the orange color or the FPM logo. The billboards were professionally designed and it seemed to me that there was a conscious effort not to use the orange color.
If you add to that the fact that most of the glorifying material is focusing on Mr. Bassil’s person and not on the FPM, we can come up with two interesting theories:
- Mr. Bassil and Mr. Aoun are planning together for a potential revolt in the FPM that could result in the breaking up of the party.
- Mr. Bassil, empowered by Hezbollah, Iran and oil money, is getting ready to become his own man and slay the father figure on his way up.