February 27, 2009 / 5:25 PM / 11 years ago

Hariri to shun unity Lebanon govt if Hezbollah wins poll

ABU DHABI (Reuters) - Saad al-Hariri, leader of Lebanon’s anti-Syrian parliamentary majority, said on Friday his Future Movement would not share power in a unity government if pro-Syrian Hezbollah and its allies won the next election.

Lebanon's Parliament majority leader Saad al-Hariri, son of Lebanon's slain former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, speaks during an interview at the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi February 27, 2009. REUTERS/Fouad Juez

Hariri said a victory for the Hezbollah-led coalition would increase the influence of Iran in the country.

Lebanon’s June 7 election is expected to be a tight race between the majority March 14 alliance of Christian, Sunni and Druze politicians and a powerful coalition comprising Hezbollah, its fellow Shi’ite Muslim group Amal, and followers of Christian former army general Michel Aoun.

Hariri said his Future Movement could form alliances with independents such as former Prime Minister Najib Mikati but would fight the poll in most areas on unified March 14 lists.

Asked if he would consider sharing power with Hezbollah and its allies in the next government if they won the majority of seats in Lebanon’s parliament, Hariri told Reuters:

“No we would not take part. I am talking about myself. Me as Future Movement would not take part in the government.

“On the contrary, I would prefer to foster democracy so as not to bolster sectarianism. Today, the problem is that we are bolstering sectarianism at the expense of democracy.”

“Opposition is sweeter.”

Lebanon’s 128-seat parliament is divided according to a complex sectarian power-sharing system and the outcome of this year’s polls are likely to be determined by a handful of seats.

But Lebanon has lurched from one political crisis to the next since the last elections in 2005, with the coalitions that stood in those polls later unraveling.

The result has been a series of compromise national unity governments that ostensibly seek to represent all parties but are hobbled by internal divisions that have brought the country to the brink of a return to its 1975-1990 civil war.

“This is the problem that the (Hezbollah-led) opposition has ... They talk about consensus democracy but what they are really doing is bolstering sectarianism,” he said.

“If anyone wants to be prime minister and the opposition wants to back or nominate him then good for them.”

Syria’s opponents in Lebanon won the 2005 elections following the assassination of Hariri’s father, a former prime minister. The killing provoked an international outcry and street demonstrations that forced Syria to end its 29-year military presence in its smaller neighbor.

Lebanon's Parliament majority leader Saad al-Hariri, son of Lebanon's slain former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, looks on during an interview at the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi February 27, 2009. REUTERS/Fouad Juez

But divisions, mirroring wider regional and international splits, have dogged the country.

The March 14 alliance is backed by the United States and Saudi Arabia, whereas Hezbollah, which is armed, is closer to Iran and Syria.

Asked if a victory by the Hezbollah-led bloc would mean more Iranian influence in Lebanon, he said: “Yes, of course.”

Editing by Charles Dick

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