BEIRUT: A new government in Lebanon must include the various political parties, insists Progressive Social Party leader Walid Jumblatt, who blamed Hezbollah among others for the country’s failed disassociation policy toward events in Syria.
“We want consensus on the name of the prime minister and a government that does not leave anyone on the bench,” Jumblatt said in remarks published Friday by local Al-Akhbar newspaper.
"I do not accept the exclusion of anyone. We are [experiencing] an extremely dangerous phase,” he warned.
Addressing Hezbollah, Jumblatt said: “They should know that today’s circumstances are different from the year 2011. We are in the heart of the Syria crisis.”
He said Lebanon’s policy of distancing itself from the violence in Syria has “failed because of Hezbollah’s commitment to Iranian orders to defend the Syrian regime and due to the armed groups entering Syria from Lebanon, some from Arsal, to fight the regime, in addition to Free Syrian Army groups that enter Lebanon.”
Nevertheless, Jumblatt was upbeat that Hezbollah would not impose on him a specific prime minister.
“I’m sure that Hezbollah will not exercise any pressure like that which led to my acceptance of a prime minister other than [former Prime Minister] Saad Hariri in 2011,” he said.
Jumblatt refused to propose any candidate to head the new government.
“We have time. Consultations have not begun yet. And it’s not me who decides,” he said.
Jumblatt criticized Hariri’s Future Movement for its stance regarding all-party talks, arguing that National Dialogue had achieved positive results in terms of Hezbollah’s arsenal.
“The Future Movement must stop this pointless rhetoric regarding the [National] Dialogue table,” Jumblatt said in his wide-ranging interview.
“This table has accomplished something great through raising the question on how to take advantage of the weapons of the resistance [Hezbollah] to confront the Israeli enemy.”
Today, Jumblatt added, National Dialogue should aim at stopping Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria.
The PSP leader reiterated his rejection of the so-called Orthodox Gathering draft law and lashed out at MP Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement for holding on to the divisive proposal.
Energy Minister Gebran Bassil, who belongs to Aoun’s FPM, must not remain in his post, Jumblatt said, adding that the Telecoms Ministry and the Energy Ministry should be taken from the Hezbollah-led March 8 coalition.
He also poured his criticism on Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea and senior party MP George Adwan for insisting on the Orthodox Gathering proposal, which allows each sect to elect its own lawmakers under a system of proportional representation.
“I can still see the devil in this [Orthodox] proposal,” Jumblatt said, chiefly blaming Adwan and Aoun for belonging to the school of Antoine Lahd, Saad Haddad and Etienne Saqr – all three pro-Israeli militia leaders who fought alongside Israel during its 1982-2000 occupation of south Lebanon.
“Samir Geagea is not far away from them,” he added.
FPM official Naji Hayek hit back at Jumblatt, asking: “Who are you to set limits on the Maronite representation in government?”
“All those you attacked in your interview in Al-Akhbar are more honorable than you, even Antoine Lahd because while he only collaborated with Israel, you served as an agent for Abu Ammar [Yasser Arafat] – the late head of the Palestinian Authority – as well as for ousted [late] Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and the Soviets and the U.S. and Syrian President Bashar Assad and Israel," Hayek said in a statement.
Predominantly Muslim parties have also opposed the Orthodox Gathering proposal.
Jumblatt has insisted on sticking to the winner-takes-all system under the law in effect – commonly referred to as the “1960 law” which adopts the qada as an electoral district and was used in the 2009 elections – or otherwise a radical overhaul which requires the end to political sectarianism.
Parliamentary elections are due in early June.
On the issue of extending the term of soon-to-retire police chief Maj. Gen. Ashraf Rifi, Jumblatt said that the head of the Internal Security Forces would go into retirement until efforts to bring him back succeed.
He said Rifi would be replaced by Brig. Gen. Roger Salem and then Brig. Gen. Ibrahim Basbous.
“Later on, if we can extend Rifi’s tenture, he will return to his post.”