BEIRUT: As the Lebanese Communist Party prepares for October elections to choose a new leadership, LCP members say they fear the current leaders will try to amend the rules so they can seek new terms. LCP members are also voicing mounting frustration with the party leadership’s performance on all levels over the past decade.
In a news conference last week to reveal the date of the LCP’s 11 national congress in October, Lebanese Communist Party leader Khaled Hadadeh conceded that the party must reinvigorate itself on the political and organizational levels.
But many LCP members believe the current leadership is not adept enough to prepare for the congress and largely blame it for the decline of LCP, Lebanon’s oldest party, and for the mounting internal problems that postponed the conference for a year.
They suspect that Hadadeh and most members of the party’s politburo will seek to amend LCP’s bylaws in the upcoming conference so they are able to run for a third term. These LCP members also accuse the party leadership for sacking party officials that oppose them.
The party opposition also argues that the leadership is doing little to mobilize support behind LCP’s historic values: socioeconomic demands and political reform.
“This leadership is unable to meet our ambitions to achieve change in this country,” said Omar Deeb, from the party’s Department of Youth and Students.
“There is a huge debate on the electoral law now and we aren’t playing any role [in the negotiations],” he told The Daily Star.
Deeb complained that the LCP did not organize demonstrations to rally support for the electoral draft law it proposes, which calls for adopting proportional representation, with Lebanon as a single district and with no sectarian allocation of seats.
He lamented the party’s passivity when it came to the current debate over civil marriage and socioeconomic demands as well.
Echoing Deeb, a party official who asked to remain anonymous said the LCP leadership had no interest in communicating with party supporters across the country. “Communists who are not members of the party joined the race in the latest round of municipal elections in the Beirut southern suburbs [in 2010] ... they got around 1,300 votes while those who won got 3,000 votes.”
“This means there is communist presence, but it is not being organized. These are veteran communists; there will be no one to replace them if the party does not plan an agenda,” he said.
The official said the current leadership was not presenting a new formula for socialism that people can accept.
“The party now only repeats ideological slogans ... it says the solution lies in socialism, but socialism has witnessed major setbacks ... you have to look for new formulas [to implement socialism],” he said.
“This weakened the party and left it without a strategy and unable to preserve its position in unions and its influence among the youth.”
He said 3,500 people took part in the last conference, and predicted barely 700 would take part in the upcoming one. These are dim projections compared to turnouts when the party was founded in 1924 and boasted tens of thousands of members in the 1970s.
The LCP official explained that contrary to the party’s bylaws, the secretary-general and most politburo members are planning to run for a third consecutive term. He said the current leadership is driving out officials who could oppose them and appointing members in party posts based on allegiance rather than merit.
He added that a year ago the leadership refused to issue a statement to explain its commitment to bylaw clauses stipulating that the secretary-general and politburo members could not run for a third term after two consecutive terms.
“They said the conference will decide on everything,” he explained.
Elected in 2003, Hadadeh said in the news conference that he abides by the party’s bylaws. But the party official said Hadadeh and his supporters would propose the bylaws be amended during the upcoming conference.
The congress convenes once every four years during which members of the Central Committee, which has legislative and oversight authorities, are elected. Also elected are members of the politburo, which is the executive branch, and the secretary-general.
Another source of disagreement within the party leadership is its stance on the unrest in Syria which the official described as “shameful.”
“They are adopting the regime’s stance,” he said. “They should have said that the regime should stop using force, engage in reforms, hold free and democratic elections and that countries should stop providing arms [to rebels].”
Another dispute broke out last year in the party over the pro-left Al-Yasariya TV. Some members of the Central Committee complained about Hadadeh establishing the TV station with Syria’s Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil and Syrian Communist Party official Mekhayel Awad without discussing the issue with Central Committee.
“Who said we should be partners with Qadri Jamil and Mekhayel Awad, who is clear that he supports the Syrian regime?” asked a member of the Central Committee. The TV station closed down late last year.
The same committee member said fewer than 34 members now attend the meetings of the 60-member-body. Some were sacked and others are boycotting the meetings in protest of the leadership’s performance, he said.
“There are at least four comrades in the politburo that resigned or are boycotting because of the performance [of the party],” he explained, requesting to remain anonymous.
He said Alaa Mawla, who had been a member of the Central Committee, was sacked from the party last year after he posted on his Facebook account news about Hadadeh seeking the help of leading politicians to insert his son’s name in the list of Lebanese University contract professors whom the government would make full-timers. Hadadeh’s son did not meet the academic requirements, he said.
The source said that although LCP’s Constitutional Committee asked the Central Committee to re-admit Mawla in the party after he challenged its decision, it refused to do so. “They have no right to oppose the decision of the Constitutional Committee.”
Another source of grievance against LCP’s leadership were media reports about Rafik Saad, the party’s official in the Beirut southern suburbs, selling $50,000 in arms belonging to the party.
“So far, this comrade has not been held accountable,” the Central Committee member said, adding that there was a feeling among many party members that Hadadeh and members of the politburo were protecting Saad.
Commenting on the issue during his news conference, Hadadeh said some party members had raised the issue in order to attract attention.
“We are a party that handed over all its weapons to the Army and we only have licensed arms for personal security,” he said, denying that anyone in the party was involved in the case.
When contacted by The Daily Star, Hadadeh said LCP’s bylaws prevent him from discussing organizational issues with the media.
The Central Committee official said around 80 party members had signed a petition demanding the resignation of Hadadeh and members of the politburo. They also requested the formation of a committee from outside the executive leadership to prepare for the conference.
“If things continue as such ... Comrade Khaled Hadadeh will be the last secretary-general of this party ... I hope the party will not split into three,” the Central Committee member said.