“There was an injustice done to me,” said Misbah Ahdab, a Democratic Renewal Movement parliamentarian from Tripoli dumped from the expected-to-win, Future-Movement-supported list in Lebanon’s second city. Ahdab and MP Mustafa Allouch, an FM member, lost their spots on the list to former Prime Minister Najib Mikati and his ally Ahmad Karami after FM leader Saad Hariri struck an electoral alliance with the popular politicians to ensure victory on June 7. Mikati and Karami are viewed as Syrian allies, and although Ahdab said he thought Hariri should have fought harder for him, he insists he is not bitter. Unlike Allouch, Ahdab is running independently, as he did in both 1996, his first run for office, and 2000. He won both those races, and is confident he can win again by stressing the need for “justice, development and security.” Ahdab wants Hezbollah disarmed and their security squares dismantled, the northern Qoleiat airport re-opened for commercial travel and the judiciary de-politicized. With many of Tripoli’s residents conservative, religious Sunnis, Ahdab has recently been championing the cause of Lebanese detained on suspicion of terrorism. “If someone hasn’t done anything but is religious, he should be free, [Instead, here in Lebanon], if they have a beard, they’re a terrorist,” said the impeccably clean shaven Ahdab.
NOW met with Ahdab to discuss the alliance that pushed him off the FM list, what impact he expects it to have on voters and what he thinks will happen after the elections.
Why did Future Movement leader Saad Hariri have to make this deal with former Prime Minister Najib Mikati?
Ahdab: Mikati said it in one of his interviews. He said there has been a Saudi-Syrian reconciliation. I happen not to be on the Saudi side and not to be on the Syrian side. So the Saudis have asked Saad Hariri to agree with Najib Mikati. The Syrians told Najib Mikati that you can only have this kind of agreement, and with this kind of agreement, I was definitely out. There was a veto against me, which is normal. The Syrians would not want me to get re-elected. But what is not normal is that you cannot make a reconciliation without telling people what happened, what kind of compromise.
Do you think this alliance will continue and be strong after elections as MP and Minister of Economy and Trade Mohammed Safadi, who is on the Tripoli list, suggested last week?
Ahdab: The first question that I would ask is what did they agree on to have this list? They didn’t agree on anything. They agreed on the Taif Agreement. This is, “Elementary, my dear Watson.” Number two: Mr. Safadi wants to be Prime Minister, Mr. Mikati wants to be Prime Minister, and they both want to use the popularity of the late Prime Minister Hariri in Tripoli to get there while they have commitments not to defend what has been defended by Prime Minster Hariri. […] [Former] Prime Minister Mikati didn’t mention the Special Tribunal in his speech [announcing the Tripoli list]. He didn’t mention it. […] How does Future Movement supporters to vote for him. Even if Saad Hariri says, “I’ve been told we have to do this,” [The Tribunal] is about his father. So there’s a certain justice that should be done. We support the International Tribunal. If we start here in Lebanon saying we do not support the International Tribunal, who would want to support it? Why should anyone anywhere in the world fight for me if I don’t want to fight for myself.
Did anyone try persuading you to drop out once it was clear you would not be on the list?
Ahdab: These were rumors. Nobody asked and no one would. I was elected before I met late Prime Minister Hariri. Who would ask me to step out, and why should I accept? I have committed 20 years of my life, and this is not my fight, it is the fight of the people.
Do you think making this alliance will hurt Hariri elsewhere in Lebanon?
Ahdab: I think yes. I had at my rally [on Saturday, when I launched my campaign] people coming from the Bekaa, from Beirut, from the Chouf, from everywhere, but specifically from Sunni areas where they feel threatened. They think that what I’ve been mentioning on TV is a request to find a balanced system where any Sunni in Lebanon is not considered a terrorist or an extremist or a Salafi-Jihadist. It’s nonsense, we can’t continue like that.
Where do you fit in the next parliament if you win? Who will your allies be?
Ahdab: I fit in, not in the archaic system of March 14, but in the principles of March 14. There will be eight members of Parliament [from Tripoli]. If I’m elected, there will be seven without any political program, and there will be one setting the political agenda. [If I’m elected,] this would mean people agree with my political agenda. So I’ll be speaking in the name of Tripoli within the archaic system, which would give me a springboard and the possibility of defending the same principles in other parts of the country. […] I would be supporting allies with whom I share the same view for Lebanon, and I think this would definitely create a new coalition that would not be affected by any pressures.
Who would be in the coalition?
Ahdab: I don’t want to guess. It all depends on who is elected, who is not elected to start with. Then there are always people’s priorities because there definitely are things to do. We can even, if there are some people elected, we can try and eventually make a small group in parliament. That would be excellent.
Do you think the “March 14” and “March 8” alliances are dead after the elections?
Ahdab: I think yes. If you want to think of the alliances of the March 14 forces, yes it doesn’t exist any more but the principles still exist.
What do you think will happen next in terms of alliances?
Ahdab: It depends on the results of the elections.