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Matt Nash

Jumblatt’s dilemma

Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt announced at a press conference Friday that his party would “stand with Syria and the Resistance” in naming Lebanon’s next prime minister. Hezbollah has indicated it will not support the re-election of caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

On Thursday, Hariri said he will once again stand for the post, and his March 14 coalition has thrown their support behind him. President Michel Sleiman is scheduled to hold constitutionally-mandated consultations with parliament on choosing a new PM Monday, though those consultations have already been postponed once.

Jumblatt’s decision could derail Hariri’s chances of winning re-election as PM. The constitution does not specifically call for a formal vote, but traditionally the president receives a name from MPs, and the candidate with the most votes wins.

Speculation about whom Jumblatt – and the 10 parliamentarians in his Democratic Gathering bloc – will support as Lebanon’s new PM has been rampant since the government collapsed on January 12. Just last week, Jumblatt and sources close to him were hinting he would support Hariri.

This week, however, Lebanon’s press has been abuzz with rumors the Druze leader will support former PM Omar Karami, reportedly the March 8 coalition’s choice. The conventional wisdom surfacing from press reports also indicated Jumblatt decided not to support Hariri under pressure from Damascus and Hezbollah.

In an interview with The New York Times published on Thursday, Jumblatt, speaking of the coming vote on a new PM, said, “I’ve been able to slowly regain the confidence of Hezbollah and Bashar [al-Assad]… I’m not going to commit any more blunders. I cannot afford to.” 

“It’s clear they’ve been twisting his arm,” a source close to Jumblatt told NOW Lebanon of pressure exerted by Syria and Hezbollah on the PSP leader. “There have been rumors of military action [by Syria and Hezbollah], threats against the Druze. The main problem is Hezbollah doesn’t have an enemy to fight [in the Sunni and Christian communities.] If the Druze are in the equation [against them], they do have an enemy. The Druze are the only ones willing to stand up. If Hezbollah wants to take West Beirut, No one will stand against them.”

Hilal Khashan, a Political Science professor at the American University of Beirut, agreed that Jumblatt was pressured against supporting Hariri’s nomination.

“The Syrians told him to vote for Karami,” Khashan said. Jumblatt last visited Damascus on January 15, days after 11 ministers resigned from the cabinet, forcing the collapse of the government.

The source close to Jumblatt, who spoke anonymously because he was not authorized to talk to the media, added that Saudi Arabia’s announcement that it was abandoning mediation efforts in Lebanon gave Jumblatt the green light to side with March 8.

Saudi Arabia, the source said, provides the PSP with a “big chunk” of the money in the party’s coffers. “It’s not a secret. Everyone knows this. [Jumblatt] says it publically.” But, the source added, “The Saudis gave up and threw in the towel. [Jumblatt] would never go against Saudi wishes, which is why he opened up to Syria in the first place,” following the June 2009 parliamentary elections.

Khashan, however, disagreed with this assessment of Jumblatt’s ties to the Saudis.

“The Saudis are not in a position to apply pressure on Jumblatt. There are two sides: the Americans and the Syrians. Jumblatt does not trust the Americans. They will let him down,” he said.

Jumblatt’s decision could mean a win for March 8 in choosing the next PM, but that is not yet guaranteed. In the New York Times interview, he said he can only count on four or five of the 11 MPs in his bloc to vote against Hariri.

During his press conference, Jumblatt did not say his entire bloc – which includes official PSP members as well as non-members and is comprised of five Druze, five Christians and one Sunni – will vote with March 8. Two sources close to the PSP gave NOW Lebanon conflicting analysis on what might happen during consultations.

One source said seven MPs will vote with Jumblatt while another said only four will. Neither was sure if the remaining Democratic Gathering bloc MPs would vote for Hariri or abstain from a vote.

An article in As-Safir recently noted that Tripoli MPs Mohammad Safadi, Ahmad Karami and Najib Mikati, Donniyeh MP Qassem Abdel Aziz, and Zahle MP Nicolas Fattouch are technically independent, though they ran on March 14-supported electoral lists, and may choose to vote against Hariri.

Khashan rejected out of hand that the Sunni MPs from the north would vote against Hariri, but Fattouch is expected to vote with March 8, according to press reports. Voting next week, should it take place, could be close, but Jumblatt’s decision seems to preclude Hariri’s chances of winning re-election.

That, of course, does not mean a government will be formed any time soon.

“March 14 won’t join the cabinet of Omar Karami,” Khashan said, echoing unnamed sources from the coalition quoted in the press this week. “They will boycott. This is an unfolding crisis, and worse is yet to come.”



  • Frustrated Lebanese

    There is a big Dainasour called hizbullah, and the political mistakes done by Harriri and his team made all this.Hizbullah and March 8 have the weapons and are backed up with all the countries, if you guys see the big picture then you know the US, Israel, Syria and Iran made the deal, so tell me what are the options that jumblatt has, and even if Harriri was named for PM can he form a government???

    January 26, 2011

  • Farid z.. you guys dont see it dont you ??

    see you guys saying walid is traitor he is coward etc... when the hezbos attacked beirut and jabal the only people stand against them were the druze.. they fought with bare arms and what ever arms they had.. we didn't see anyone of M14 came and helped even making some sandwiches for the guys who were fighting .. you're so good of talking bla bla bla.. look at the real picture the guy was treat of a full attack on the jabal he wanted to protects his peoples.. he has no support from any country no support from within "no arms no army to defend and he know that if he said no we would av been at war with an enemy that is so strong and knowing the druze they will go to war and it will be a bloody battle... from both side and druze will loose ofcourse.. just look at the big picture .. if you're men enough go and fight and we'll back you up.. dont do what you did the last time those guy walked all over you without even a resistance... just for the record.. hope the site will publish...

    January 25, 2011

  • omar

    Lebanon: SOLD... To: SYRIA... Price: independence, honour Sale made by: Waleed Jumblatt. Well done Traitor(what happened to the berlin wall falling...I think u just helped it back up)

    January 24, 2011

  • N

    Jumblat can now freely eat sushi at his favorite restuarant Osaka without any bodyguards. It seems like a fair trade, sushi over justice. Mabrouk Jumblat.

    January 24, 2011

  • raji nassif

    He is not ina delimma,he knows exactly what he is doing .

    January 24, 2011

  • raji nassif

    He is a person without WAFAA,HE BEEN ALL HIS LIF LIKE THAT,THIS IS A PERSON WITHOUT ANY SELF REPECT BUT SOONER OR LATER THE DEVIL WILL CATCH UP WITH HIM AND HIS FACE WITH FROG EYES.

    January 24, 2011

  • Gheny

    Jumblatt admitted many times that he was scared into changing camps. He never wanted it to be a secret. He realized one side was whiling to kill to get it's way the other side was not, he figure I can always change my mind back if I needed to but not if I''m dead.

    January 24, 2011

  • Tawil - USA

    This is not a new behavior. Joumblat has a history of changing his color. Is he trying to buy his son a guaranteed leadership by selling Lebanon to Syria?

    January 23, 2011

  • ELie

    When Walid Junblatt succeeds in explaining to the lebanese the contradictions of his statements, I will line-up behind him. The only explanation of his revolving door diplomacy is as Lafontaine said it so elequently so long ago: "La raison du plus fort est toujours la meilleure".

    January 23, 2011

  • ROSENVALD

    Jumblat is afraid to be killed, like your father. Now Jumblat is the new Hezboolla slave. He just want survive. He just fear Syria and Hezboolla,the "persian ... ". Hezboolla,Syria and Irãn are worst to Lebanon than Israel. This is the true.

    January 23, 2011

  • Miumiu

    The Minority always side with the strongest , this is a side, Jounbolat siding with M8 not he really wants to, but forced to. He has NO real backer like Harriri (Saudi/France/US/Egypt) or Hezbo (Iran/Syria plus its vast weapon arsenal !)), Christians(France/Vatican/US) 2nd He is geographically surrounded & within by M8, 3rd STL/M14 will eventually win with/without his support, so he is sparing alot of problems for himself & his family position & the area he influence & getting the same result ( from STL ).and finally , M8/Syria's 'REVENGE' is much harsher than M14 & others...!!, and I'm not a pro-Jounbolat

    January 22, 2011

  • Hassan

    This is from The Daily Star, on 30 March 2005 "Karami to resign after failing to form unity government Lebanon's Prime Minister-designate Omar Karami said he will step down after failing to form a government including opposition and loyalists. It is widely expected he will formally submit his resignation to President Emile Lahoud this Thursday after a formal meeting of the pro-Syrian Ain al-Tineh grouping which Karami is a leading member of." Whoever has the majority to name the next PM he is going to face the same problem Karami faced in 2005 and will have to resign. If history is our guide the next PM to form a government, after a period of bickering, will probably be a neutral Sunni, everybody will be able to claim victory the Lebanese way.

    January 21, 2011

  • CEDAR REVOLUTION / GEBRAN SONS

    Wonderful news. There would have not been Cedar Revolution I without M8 large demonstration; and there will not be Cedar Revolution II without all useful idots side with M8.

    January 21, 2011

  • Rashad

    I’m a proud Druze, Socialist, and Lebanese-American college student….. and right now I’m very embarrassed at what our leaders have just done. This situation is wrong on so many levels. On a moral level, Jumblatt just sided with alleged murderers, not only that, but now there is consensus among all the Druze leaders that we support killing people in cold-blood, in broad daylight, just to get what we want. And on an ideological level, as a supposed socialist, he just officially declared allegiance to Fascist Syria and Islamo-fascist Iran and Hizballah. I can't imagine that the older real Socialist Druze support this. And I definitely don't see anyone, but the most loyal Jumblattophiles, siding with the same people that tried to kill them just a few years ago. This is just a mess.

    January 21, 2011

  • Miumiu

    Dilemma is an under-statement, he may have voted for M8 , but he has no other options but to, consciously he is with M14..any one that understand a little Politics & have a little knowledge of Lebanon complex system than he would understand.

    January 21, 2011