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The Evolving Patterns of Lebanese Politics in Post-Syria Lebanon

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Fouad Ilias

Summary

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1This work aims to shed light on the evolution of the Lebanese political arena after the withdrawal of Syrian troops in April 2005 by analyzing the perceptions of Hizballah among members of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), as the alliance between the two groups enters its fourth year. Hizballah is generally well portrayed among FPM members although the two constituencies have very few elements in common. Different backgrounds, confessions, political views and cultural traits distinguish them. How could it be that yesterday’s (perceived) enemies are today’s best friends? How do FPM supporters react to such a turnaround? Moreover, in the post 9/11 world order and also after Syria’s withdrawal and the communitarian burst that followed, a Christian-Muslim understanding sounds quite unusual. Why is the Party of God well received among FPM members? How and according to what criteria do the latter perceive Hizballah positively? How are these perceptions structured?

2The author adopts different conceptualizations to show that Hizballah influences how it is perceived by those outside of its own constituency and therefore reaches out to the FPM’s in order to extend its legitimacy to it. In turn, the author analyzes how the FPM constituency’s perceptions of Hizballah are also driven by the charisma of its own leadership (the magnetic figure of former General Michel Aoun) as well as the interdependency between charismatic leadership and the loose institutionalization of the FPM. Moreover the work examines the political significance of the alliance within the context of the severe polarization of Lebanese politics after the withdrawal of the Syrian arbitrator of the post-conflict political system that was created according to the Ta’if agreements signed at the end of the civil war in 1989.

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