Elections for a new leader of the General Labor Confederation appeared increasingly likely Wednesday, despite efforts to achieve a “compromise” solution to avoid a free-wheeling election battle.
Labor sources said that the pre-election period, prior to next Thursday’s poll, will see further pressure to avoid an election battle as the GLC’s power-brokers have yet to agree on a single candidate. Also at stake is a substantial election boycott a repeat of the 1997 period when the GLC was paralyzed by two rival, wings that each claimed to represent the legitimate leadership.
Maroun Khawli, a member of the executive council who last week voted to depose Abu Rizk, on Wednesday denied accusations that the poll, which was approved by the Labor Ministry, meant that the government was interfering in the movement.
“Abu Rizk should stop acting as if he’s the president of the GLC. If he continues to call himself this, he could face further legal action,” Khawli told a news conference at GLC headquarters.
Khawli, of the Mount Lebanon Confederation, cited various articles of the labor law and the GLC’s by-laws to refute the charges of interference by Abu Rizk’s allies.
Khawli said when Abu Rizk ran for Parliament last year, he violated the by-laws’ provision that forbade political activity.
Several other articles, Khawli continued, demonstrated that a simple majority of the GLC’s executive council could vote leaders out of office.
Khawli played down the possibility that at a critical time of economic reform and privatization, the GLC would be split next week into two rival factions, if Abu Rizk, his allies, and others boycott the elections. “Since the 1950s,” Khawli said, “the labor movement has always seen divisions of various types.”
One proponent of a compromise solution is George Hajj, who heads the Bank Employees Confederation.
Hajj’s confederation did not attend last week’s meeting that deposed Abu Rizk, although he is not a supporter of the GLC president. Hajj told The Daily Star that he preferred not to respond to Khawli’s accusations that Abu Rizk’s leadership of the GLC was illegal.
The mere fact of having elections, Hajj continued, was unlikely to end the labor movement’s woes. “Elections aren’t as important as having a consensus over the new president.”
Hajj advocated a cooling-off period during which a committee would be appointed to deal with issues like revamping the GLC’s membership and amending its by-laws. Hajj said his confederation, one of the country’s strongest and best-organized, would not necessarily take part in next week’s elections, despite opposition to Abu Rizk’s leadership.
As Khawli said, “it’s impossible to satisfy 37 confederations.”