The weekend conclave between Speaker Nabih Berri and Premier Rafik Hariri tackled the thorny question of a new leader of the General Labor Confederation, labor sources said Tuesday.
The sources said that Berri and Hariri’s talks in Faqra, Kesrouan, topped several days of negotiations regarding a successor to Elias Abu Rizk.
Abu Rizk, the embattled GLC president, was deposed last week by 44 of the 74 members of the group’s executive council. The Labor Ministry endorsed the call for new elections on March 15 late last week, the sources said.
Observers identify two leading contenders to succeed Abu Rizk Ghassan Ghosn of the Air Transport Confederation and George Hajj of the Bank Employees Confederation.
The sources maintain that Hariri, who disapproves of government action in what he considers an internal GLC dispute, sent out feelers last week regarding Hajj’s candidacy.
The sources said Hariri considered Hajj an appealing candidate because the premier felt comfortable dealing with a labor leader from the banking sector.
Ghosn’s candidacy is backed by Berri’s Amal Movement and the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, among other groups that are influential in the GLC.
The stalemate prompted Berri and Hariri to discuss the issue at their two-day conclave.
Hariri, the source said, pushed for a compromise appointing the GLC executive council’s eldest member, Tawfiq Abu Khalil, to head a transitional committee that would oversee GLC affairs, possibly for up to six months.
Observers believe Hariri’s proposal will sideline the GLC with internal restructuring at a time when critical economic issues, particularly privatization, require action by the labor body.
The sources said Berri pledged to consider Hariri’s suggestion.
Amal and its allies, who seek Abu Rizk’s replacement and control of the biggest bloc in the GLC, have only eight days before the scheduled polls.
Meanwhile, a group of confederations that back Abu Rizk urged the Labor Ministry to “not be influenced” by the calls for electing a new GLC leadership.
After meeting at the headquarters of the Communist Party-dominated National Confederation, they said they would contact Arab and international labor bodies about the prospect of “illegal elections.” They also called on President Emile Lahoud, Berri and Hariri to halt what they said were “violations of regulations” governing the GLC.
Observers said Abu Rizk’s allies have been active denouncing the latest events, while the 44 members who deposed the GLC president have been silent on the media front.