Lebanon’s opposition remain divided over election alliances

By Majdoline Hatoum , May 24, 2005

BEIRUT: With less than a week to polling day, Lebanon’s political opposition remains hopelessly divided over whether it will join forces to fight this month’s crucial elections.

Despite a late night meeting between Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement and representatives of Druze leader Walid Jumblatt and Future Movement head Saad Hariri, agreement between the country’s opposition politicians remained as far away as ever.

FPM spokesman Tony Nasrallah told The Daily Star that Aoun gave the delegation a list of demands he expects to be answered before a news conference he will be holding today at 10 a.m.

Nasrallah said: “We expect an answer to the list in the few upcoming hours. And in any case, Aoun will hold his press conference and announce the FPM’s electoral lists and alliances.”

The FPM refused to say what Aoun’s demands are, but it is understood that the main problem standing in the way of an agreement between Aoun and Jumblatt is the Druze leader’s insistence on limiting Aoun’s nomination of candidates in any unified electoral list.

Jumblatt is understood to want to restrict Aoun to nominating only Christian candidates while Aoun insists on naming candidates from different sects.

In a veiled reference to the issue, FPM politburo member Jibran Bassil said: “When the FPM is portrayed as a Christian movement and is not allowed to name people from different sects it means we have not attained the national unity the opposition has been talking about.”

The FPM has supporters among the Sunni, Shiite and Druze communities in Lebanon. On his return earlier this month, following 15 years in exile, Aoun pledged he would “not dwell in Lebanese sectarian political practices.”

In the event that no agreement is reached to fight the election with a single unified opposition list, the door will be opened to a fierce battle between Aoun and Jumblatt in the Baabda-Aley district where both men enjoy a strong support.

Aoun has already announced he will stand in the Mount Lebanon region, which goes to the polls on June 12. Aoun is expected to announce which district in the region he will contest at today’s conference.

Meanwhile, Saad Hariri vowed to take his father’s assassins and those who aided them to trial, saying “their days are numbered.”

During an interview with a German magazine he said: “One thing I can confirm, in case we find them, the murderers will perhaps sit in the dock of the International Court in The Hague.”

Hariri’s electoral lists are expected to sweep all before them in Beirut’s polls next Sunday.

Meanwhile, Metn MP Nasib Lahoud announced his withdrawal from elections because of what he called an “unfair electoral law.”

Lahoud, the son of Lebanon’s President Emile Lahoud, who was one of the main architects of the controversial 2000 electoral law that provides the legal framework for the upcoming elections, said: “I refuse taking part in a charade. The results of these elections are known in advance and they don’t express the choice of Lebanese people.”