29 March 2009

* Makhzoumi "..will not take part in such a charade"


"I am not a candidate in the legislative elections because I refuse to take part in such a charade"

“I am not a candidate in the legislative elections because I refuse to be associated with such a charade”, declared Fouad Makhzoumi, leader of the National Dialogue Party. In his view, the resurrected electoral law of 1960, in accordance with which the 2009 elections will take place divides rather than unites Lebanese society.

He further thinks that the “forces of the fait accompli are reviving the confessional system, which is so harmful to the Lebanese entity and its people… Most of the forces on the ground adopted, in public, the Taef Agreement, but in fact they are working to annihilate it and go beyond it.

“That”, he adds, “is why the National Dialogue Party refuses to follow the path of the forces of March 8 and March 14, which are together responsible for the events of May 7, 2008. The building of the state begins with a fair and balanced electoral law”.

What are the repercussions of inter-Arab repercussions on the Lebanese political scene?
The forces of March 8 and March 14 wrongly believe that Lebanon is an advanced line of the operation to bring about a regional change in the framework of a new Middle East.

When in 2000 we suggested the establishment of diplomatic relations between Lebanon and Syria without marginalizing the Christian role in our country, we were eliminated from the elections.

All the parties must be aware of the fact that the interests of states take precedence over those of persons, and therefore we must not expect that America will expose its special regional relations to danger, especially those in Iraq, in favor of a Lebanese faction. Nor must we lose sight of the fact that most of the personalities now affiliated with March 14 were previously fundamental allies of Syria.

Need for a Syrian-Saudi-Egyptian rapprochement
After the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, the Americans looked for Sunnite symbols to deal with on the Lebanese scene. Our party adopted a clear position against UN Resolution 1559 since it was hostile to both Syria and Hezbollah. How could we abandon the weapons of the Resistance when Israel envisages repeating, at any time, its aggression against our country? We have always argued that it is not possible to reach a settlement in the region except by means of a return of the historic axis between Damascus, Riyadh and Cairo. The rapprochement now going on shows that these three Arab capitals realize the dangers threatening their national interests.

As for Lebanon’s position, it is the same as it was in 1943, in the sense that it remains the scene where regional and international projects. From 1992 to 2004, our country was influenced by the Arab-international entente.

After the assassination of [former] Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, seditious currents were revived between Sunnites and Shiites, especially on the part of those who coveted official posts and other positions of leadership.

Now the Arab states realize that America has no intention of imposing sovereignty, freedom and democracy, and this is proved by what is going on in Lebanon. How can we believe the United States supports the “cedar revolution” while insisting that the legislative elections of the year 2005 take place in accordance with the “Ghazi Kanaan law”?

The electoral law of 1960 accentuates cleavages
The electoral law of 1960 intensifies the cleavage among the citizens. In 1945 our political system was based on a coalition of communities, and since the Taef Agreement of 1989 it has been based on a coalition of leaders, and this has abolished the authority of the state’s institutions.

Will the inter-Arab reconciliations affect the Lebanese electoral alliances? Why do you feel concerned with the return of the “two-party alliance” and the “four-party alliance”?

In the 2005 elections the four-party alliance was established and comprised the Future Movement, the Progressive Socialist Party, Hezballah and the Amal Movement, without forgetting the Lebanese Forces and the Kataeb.

And today we have Hezballah, Amal, the PSP, the Future Movement and the Free Patriotic Movement.

But can we consider this to be realistic?
After the breakup of the four-party alliance in 2006 due to the association of each grouping with a particular program different from that of others, the July-August war of 2006 and UN Resolution 1701, and the establishment of Hezballah as a striking force, the Future Movement was allowed to arm itself and bring about a confrontation. This led to taking it to Doha and reaching an agreement and the election of a president.

I personally think that in Doha on March 30 [during the Arab League summit taking place there], there will be an agreement on the 128 MPs [who will be elected on June 7] as well as on the name of the next prime minister, and even the names of the ministers taking part in the next cabinet.

Thus, we will return to the old system of “electoral buses” with a new look.

Will you be a candidate in the June 7 elections?
Not at all. I have no desire to take part in this absurdity or to give it legitimacy. For two years votes have been transferred from Akkar to the Beirut II constituency, but despite this the Party of Dialogue will win in that constituency. At Doha they decided to revive the four-party alliance in the framework of an agreement aimed at handing Beirut over to the Future Movement in order to share its parliamentary seats. That’s why we’ll boycott the elections, and everyone will feel the dimension of our boycott.

What are the likely perspectives following the elections?
Since 1992, we have seen in Lebanon the founding of two states: that of Solidere and that of the security apparatus. The state of Solidere never interfered in security issues, nor did the security state ever interfere in economic affairs. This situation prevailed until 2004, after which we all witnessed assassinations and political transformations.

The new electoral alliance will enable MP Hariri to take the majority of the seats of the next legislature with the blessing of Hezballah. Even [MP] Ossama Saad may be excluded because he belongs to a third party which is far removed from the prevailing duality.

I also do not consider that the candidacy of Premier Saniora to a legislative seat could destabilize the Doha Agreement as some say, because here matters will be clear: Hezballah and the Amal Movement will have all the Shiite seats in Parliament, the Future Movement will have the Sunnite seats, Jumblatt the Druze seats. Jumblatt will leave one seat open on his list for former MP Talal Arslan and a certain formula will be found for the parliamentary seats that belong to the Christians.

What do you expect of the Arab League Summit in Doha?
We call on the Arab countries and the Arab League to seek dialogue and solidarity during the upcoming Arab League summit as well as to find a solution to the mushrooming Arab problems. They should take a united and courageous stance facing all issues.

Sudan is facing a dangerous crisis and in Palestine, Gaza is in dire need of assistance and peace should be made between the Palestinian factions. In Lebanon the ashes of strife are smouldering under the surface, and Iraq continues to suffer from division and occupation.

However, we are happy about the positive developments that have taken place on the level of the Saudi-Syrian relationship, and we encourage the Arab reconciliations, which should strengthen the Arab nation in the face of the Israeli enemy. We should reconsider the peace dossier, especially after the mention of stopping the Arab Peace Initiative with Israel. We should raise the awareness of Arab opinion about the various issues on the international agenda. And remember: no one will feel any sympathy for someone who doesn’t fight for his rights, especially in the face of the UN Security Council and the international community.

What do you think of the centrist bloc, about which there has been so much controversy?
The demonstrations that have taken place under the slogan of the centrist bloc and the discussions between the political forces do not show that this bloc is envisaged in the politically-understood sense of this term. This issue has turned out to be a bone of contention between the loyalists and the opposition. Why does one side want to give the president an MP from here or there if all the statements show that the coming conflict will be about the one who governs, “the majority”, without the participation of the opposition or the formation of a government of national unity or of a coalition?

The forces of the present parliamentary majority have said frankly that they will not take part in power if they do not obtain a parliamentary majority in the coming elections. The president does not want to be supported by a bloc, although logic says that President Sleiman’s mandate needs the support of such a bloc. But the situation implies that he must remain equidistant from the two sides, continue to assume the role of arbiter and be the compass directing Lebanon towards the stability and security required for the success of his mandate.

Where does the Party of Dialogue stand in relationship to March 8 and March 14?
We support the principles of freedom, sovereignty and independence, but we are against the exchange of one tutelage for another, which is evident whenever the March 14 side goes to [the US embassy at] Awkar. We are also against dualities, which do not build a state. The Shiite-Maronite duality between Hezballah and the Free Patriotic Movement does not build a state. And we reject the behavior of both March 8 and March 14.

You speak of the partnership of interests proclaimed between Hezballah and the Future Movement. Who is responsible for the events of May 7, 2008?
The Future and Hezballah are responsible for those events. Otherwise, why allow the Future Movement to arm itself? What happened was planned in order to lead to the Doha Agreement. That’s why this agreement will not be disowned by Hezballah or the Future Movement.

How can Lebanon the state be built in the context of dualities?
The building of the state begins with a balanced and fair electoral law, not a law that prevents an ordinary citizen from expressing his convictions and opinions outside the political alignment now prevailing. A popular situation is needed that will exert pressure in order to bring about change and a new political class, especially since new cards are appearing in line with the policy of entente and understanding now being followed by the Obama Administration.

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Lebanon Time-Line

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Throw in maniacal drivers, air pollution from old, smoking Mercedes taxis, world-class universities, bars to rival Soho and coffee thicker than mud, political demonstrations, and swimming pools awash with more silicone than Miami. Add people so friendly you’ll swear it can’t be true, a political situation existing on a knife-edge, internationally renowned museums and gallery openings that continue in the face of explosions, assassinations and power cuts, and you’ll find that you’ve never experienced a capital city quite so alive and kicking – despite its frequent volatility.