Lebanon: Kingmaker Jumblatt Declares His Conditions

His second condition stands out most. Jumblatt doesn’t want Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement to control the lucrative energy and telecom ministries as they have in previous governments. (Photo: Marwan Tahtah)
 
Published Friday, March 29, 2013
 
With the resignation of Prime Minister Najib Mikati, Druze leader Walid Jumblatt has become Lebanon’s political kingmaker once again. He reveals to Al-Akhbar his conditions for the next government.

Walid Jumblatt rejects the idea that he has regained his role as a kingmaker, a figure who is able to both shape the next government and determine which election law will be adopted for the parliamentary elections.

“I cannot accept any side being left out,” he says, suggesting that he does not plan to back a particular bloc as he did in 2011 with the previous government. “This is a very dangerous period.”

He’s pleased that Hezbollah is not pressuring him this time around, adding that the situation has changed since then, particularly when it comes to Syria. He maintains that Lebanon’s policy of dissociation from the crisis next door has collapsed, blaming Hezbollah, Lebanese Sunni armed groups, and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) of violating it.

So what do you think should be done? “The return to dialogue,” he answers. “We really should stay away from the kind of criticisms that the Future Movement directed against the National Dialogue Roundtable. We’ve made a lot of progress on how to benefit from Hezbollah’s arms in confronting the Israeli enemy, so let’s use it to get them out of Syria.”

He refuses to name his candidate to head up the next government, insisting that the selection be made collectively by the main political forces. If it is going to be a government of technocrats, as some are proposing, then he would name businessman and head of the Arab Chamber of Commerce Adnan Kassar.
Jumblatt denies reports that he had already proposed the return of Mikati to head up a national unity government. He reaches for a piece of paper on which he wrote his main conditions: a return to disassociation from the Syrian crisis, making sure Lebanon’s sources of wealth are not “controlled by destructive political forces,” and administrative reform.

His second condition stands out most. Jumblatt doesn’t want Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement to control the lucrative energy and telecom ministries as they have in previous governments, thus firing the first salvo in the ministerial selection process.

He insists that Mikati’s resignation had nothing to do with external pressures as many had suggested – “he was barred from appointing a first-category civil servant,” he says, referring to the refusal of the previous cabinet to endorse Mikati’s proposal to extend the term of the commander of the Internal Security Forces (ISF), Ashraf Rifi.

He refuses any quid pro quo between extending for Rifi and the new election law, particularly the Orthodox Gathering proposal which he strongly opposes, denouncing the Christian political leaders who are supporting it.

Jumblatt says categorically that his MPs will not participate in any parliamentary session that will consider the Orthodox law. He is only willing to consider what is being called a “mixed law” that combines both proportional and majority representation.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian
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