Metn MP Nassib Lahoud and six partners announced the formation Wednesday of the Democratic Renewal Movement, the latest gathering of reform-minded politicians and activists seeking to revive the country’s political system.
Lahoud and former MPs Camille Ziade, Michel Samaha, and Nadim Salem, as well as two university professors Antoine Haddad and Joseph Bahout make up the movement’s founding committee.
They gave notice to the Interior Ministry about their new organization on Wednesday, under the country’s 1908 law on associations.
Haddad, an expert in development issues, told The Daily Star that he and his colleagues had spent about a year preparing to launch the group, which they hope will see an inaugural conference within a month.
“The timing of the launch is nothing special,” Haddad said, asked about the recent announcements of political initiatives by Najah Wakim and George Hawi, a pro-sovereignty manifesto signed by mainly-leftist politicians and intellectuals, and meetings by Christian MPs and politicians in Qornet Shehwan.
“It’s a healthy sign to have various expressions like this,” Haddad added.
According to a statement released by the group, the movement’s founding charter stresses four points. It emphasizes “consolidating the sovereignty and independence of the Lebanese republic and its leading and effective role in its surrounding Arab environment,” as well as “correcting Lebanese democracy, since it is a system based on equality and participation.”
Other goals include defending respect for institutions and public liberties, human rights, and “political-cultural-intellectual dialogue on all issues” to reduce differences among segments of the population.
Notably, the statement does not mention a “free economy” a term revered by so many Lebanese political parties and movements, stressing instead the need to build a “modern economy that is open to the world.”
Haddad said that while the founding members had been in contact with former members of political parties, he indicated that the likely candidates for inclusion would be people not currently affiliated with parties.
He also denied that the fact that the six founding members are Christians should be used to label the movement.
“What we have is a homogeneous group, since we’ve worked with each other in the past,” he said. “When the actual leadership is elected following an inaugural conference, things will become clearer. But we certainly didn’t want to include people among the founding committee just for the sake of saying ‘Look, we have people from all sects.’”
Haddad downplayed the idea that seeing a number of reform-minded groups appear on the political scene meant only further fragmentation.
“Again, it’s a healthy sign, and in any case, the goals of our group don’t contradict those of others, such as the Qornet Shehwan gathering. Some of our members are participants in this gathering, for example.”
But Haddad was less upbeat when evaluating the prevailing political situation, as calls for sovereignty, dialogue, and reform are heard on a daily basis.
“What we realized in forming this movement is that we have a lot of homework to do,” he said. “Things look pretty bleak right now.”