Lebanese Crisis (II): Phalangists Court Aounists

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Phalange president Amin Gemayel during a press conference. (Photo: Marwan Bou Haidar)

By: Maysam Rizk

Published Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The past few weeks saw many events that are seemingly causing major changes in the Lebanese political scene. Al-Akhbar takes a look at how some of the major players in Lebanon see the recent events.

The convergence in opinion among the Phalange Party, the Lebanese Forces, and the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) regarding the future of the contract workers at Electricite du Liban (EDL) poses many questions about the possibility of laying the foundations for new political relations and alliances among these Christian parties.

The vice president of the Phalange, Sijaan Qazzi, told Al-Akhbar that at this point, “there are no negotiations between the Phalange, or any Christian party from March 14, and the FPM to establish a political, electoral, or parliamentary alliance.”

The political consultations taking place between the Christian parliamentary blocs are still restricted to two issues: the contract workers and the Parliamentary Quartet Committee charged with drafting a new election law.

The agreement among the Christian parties, in spite of their political differences, in rejecting the draft law — intended to turn EDL contract workers into full-time workers — will not necessarily lead to purely sectarian political blocs.

“It is impossible to have a Christian-Christian alliance on the ruins of a Christian-Muslim disagreement, whether Sunni or Shia,” says Qazzi adding: “We want a Christian-Christian alliance based on core national principles that fall under the rubric of co-existence and Lebanon’s unity.”

Qazzi stressed that “solidarity among Christian parties on the contract workers issue was not planned.” He says it was “more by accident than design.” That is why, he added, “this solidarity should be safeguarded if we want to transform it into an alliance.”

But it appears that this alliance is not easily achievable, especially given that Phalange MP Sami Gemayel had previously announced that “the disagreement with the FPM is political and as long as there is no agreement on the questions of sovereignty and [Hezbollah’s] arms, then it is difficult to talk about a political alliance.”

Qazzi, however, believes that “it is wrong to undermine this solidarity.”

Qazzi goes back to the statement from the March 14 secretariat that he said “mentioned the FPM purposefully, in addition to Hezbollah, as if trying to crush this budding Christian-Christian solidarity.”

This, he says, “is unacceptable because uniting Christian parties is our demand, as the current situation requires Christian unity in order to address the question of our existence in Lebanon and the region, at a time when we don’t know how things will turn out inside Lebanon or in the region.”

Perhaps the united Christian position on the contract workers issue will pave the way for a new political landscape in the Christian political arena.

This however would require that the FPM “reconsider its political positioning and agree with us on the core principles that we have always struggled together for,” says Qazzi, adding that without these principles, “this solidarity will be temporary.”

The Phalange party appreciates the solidarity shown by the Future Movement with the position of the FPM, the Phalange, and Lebanese Forces in parliament.

Commenting on the support of Sunni votes in the Future Movement led by the head of their parliamentary bloc, MP Fouad Siniora, Qazzi says that “this solidarity reflects the Future Movement’s commitment to maintaining the sectarian balance inside government institutions.”

It is important to keep in mind, however, that the draft law that was discussed in parliament was proposed by MPs from the Future Movement, the Lebanese Forces, and the Phalange, in addition to MP Ayoub Hmayed from the Amal movement.

When asked about the boycott of legislative sessions, Qazzi said, “What is more important than boycotting is to attend the sessions to monitor what the Christians reject.” He opposes “ratifying the law by the strike of a gavel,” as he put it.

Qazzi confirmed the Phalange party’s good relationship with Speaker Nabih Berri, saying: “We are no fans of disputes with the Speaker of Parliament, and we appreciate the conciliatory role he played at more than one parliamentary and national occasion.”

Qazzi hoped that “voting again for the draft law in parliament won’t be seen as a victory for one party over another. We must cooperate to find a solution that will protect the rights of everyone.”

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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