BEIRUT: The Future Movement and the Free Patriotic Movement engaged in a new war of words Monday, after the FPM-affiliated broadcaster OTV criticized a number of Lebanon’s past premiers, including caretaker PM Saad Hariri.
“The Free Patriotic Movement’s TV channel [broadcast] dangerous speech yesterday that holds responsible successive premiers for Lebanon’s crises, civil wars and economic problems since the 1950s until today,” Future’s Secretary-General Ahmad Hariri said in a statement.
The broadcast claimed that prime ministerial conflicts with presidents since the 1950s have negatively affected the country and criticized Saad Hariri’s refusal to head a politico-technocratic government.
“Hariri says he is leaving and not coming back, and his conditions are nearing the impossible ... No to Hezbollah, no to the [Free Patriotic] Movement and no politicians in a technocratic government that he heads ... What is hidden is that Hezbollah's [elimination from the government intends to make it] pay” for its triumph over Israel "and make the [FPM] pay for standing by the resistance's side," the OTV bulletin said.
This is the second time in less than a month that the two parties – which constitute the mainstay of the 2016 political settlement that led to the election of Gen. Michel Aoun as president and brought Saad Hariri back to the premiership – have engage in a public dispute.
Hariri resigned from his post as premier on Oct. 29, bringing down the government with him. He and his Cabinet ministers have been serving in a caretaking capacity since. Aoun, who founded the FPM, has yet to call for consultations with lawmakers to designate a new premier. Hariri recently withdrew his candidacy for the premiership.
Ahmad Hariri accused the FPM of trying to incite sectarian strife by blaming premiers and the premiership for Lebanon’s deteriorating situation, via the Sunday-evening news bulletin.
“If [FPM leader Gebran] Bassil is betting on Sunni-Shiite strife and is designating his TV channel to incite it, we tell him to play a different [game],” he said.
The FPM quickly hit back, saying that the broadcast did “not reflect the [Free] Patriotic Movement’s position.”
The FPM said its policy focuses on bringing the Lebanese together “to prevent tension, especially between Sunnis and Shiites.”
The party called for the swift formation of a “productive government that [will] save the country from economic collapse.”
Future then replied in a statement, saying the FPM’s disavowal of the broadcast “emphasizes the accuracy of Ahmad Hariri’s statement ... but does not deny the fact that all Lebanese know, which is that OTV is the official speaker in the name of the [FPM] and its president.”
Future said the FPM is campaigning against Hariri’s policies by having its officials and lawmakers “compete in campaigns of slander and defamation against late premier Rafic Hariri and premier Saad Hariri.”