May 08 2012
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Hariri calls for toppling Mikati Cabinet with votes
08 May 2012
BEIRUT: Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri has urged supporters of the Future Movement and its March 14 allies to topple the Hezbollah-controlled government with their votes in next year’s parliamentary elections.
He warned that the March 8 parties were seeking to bring Lebanon back under Syrian tutelage through an election law based on proportional representation. Addressing a large crowd of supporters, including Future bloc MPs, gathered near the tomb of his slain father, statesman Rafik Hariri, in Martyrs’ Square in downtown Beirut Sunday on the occasion of Lebanon’s Press Martyrs Day, Hariri lambasted Hezbollah, accusing the party of using its weapons to intimidate the electorate in the 2013 elections.
However, Hariri’s call to topple the government in Lebanon drew a swift response from a Hezbollah minister who accused the Future Movement-led opposition March 14 coalition of putting a wager on a regime change in Syria in a bid to regain power here. Hariri’s government was ousted by what March 14 parties call “a Hezbollah-led coup” in January last year that propelled Najib Mikati to the premiership.
“One crucial year separates us from the parliamentary elections. In these elections, the Lebanese will clearly say whether they want to continue in the same way with the present deterioration of economic, security and living conditions, with the regime of lies that works for the butcher of Damascus,” said Hariri, an outspoken critic of Syria’s embattled President Bashar Assad and a staunch supporter of the 14-month-old Syrian uprising.
“Some want parliamentary elections that suit the armed partisan authorities, and they promote election laws that restore regimes of tutelage and domination but with local tools this time,” Hariri said, referring to Hezbollah and its March 8 allies which are backed by Syria. “This will not pass,” he added.
Referring to March 14 mass street demonstrations in March 2005 following Rafik Hariri’s assassination that eventually led to the withdrawal of Syrian troops, ending nearly three decades of Syria’s domination of Lebanon, Hariri said: “When the Lebanese decided to kick the Syrian regime out of Lebanon, they didn’t do this so that others come later on to take over the role of this [Syrian] regime through intimidation, weapons and armed men.”
Hariri slammed Hezbollah for using its weapons against Beirut’s residents during street clashes between pro- and anti-government gunmen in May 2008 following a decision by the then-government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora to dismantle the party’s private telecommunications network. Eighty people were killed in clashes in Beirut and other areas.
“After the weapons have been used in the internal blood game, and after the people’s decision has been forged, our choice was and still is to follow the path of democracy, not strife, of the ballot boxes and not the death boxes,” Hariri said.
Despite growing political tensions between the March 8 and March 14 factions, Hariri vowed to prevent Sunni-Shiite strife. He said his election campaign for 2013 would be identical to 2009: No to Hezbollah’s weapons and yes to the “peaceful and democratic struggle in defense of freedom and independence.”
In his speech, aired on a large screen via a video link, Hariri also slammed the government on both its domestic and foreign policies, particularly its dissociation policy toward developments in Syria.
“Some issues cannot bear a policy of disassociation like watching Syrian opposition members being kidnapped in Lebanon and handed over to the butcher of Damascus,” Hariri said. He accused the government of blocking assistance to thousands of Syrian refugees in the Bekaa region and “barely delivering aid to thousands more refugees in the north.”
Hariri reiterated his support for Syrians seeking freedom and democracy and said he hoped Assad would face international justice.
Hariri scoffed at the Syrian parliamentary elections that took place Monday, describing them as rigged. “They have prepared the results in advance and filled the ballot boxes with the names of the winners,” he said.
“Elections in Syria are under the terror of weapons. And in Lebanon, they also want elections and electoral laws subject to the terror of weapons,” Hariri said. “Our decision is to confront this conspiracy against the democratic regime and the renewed attempts to subject Lebanon to the Syrian regime and its tools.”
Separately, Hariri discussed with Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa al-Thani Monday “the latest regional and international developments, particularly at the Arab level, as well as bilateral relations,” according to a statement released by Hariri’s media office. Hariri, who arrived in Doha Sunday, met twice with Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani, who hosted a dinner for him.
Meanwhile, Hezbollah’s Minister for Administrative Development Mohammad Fneish slammed Hariri’s call to overthrow the regime in Lebanon and warned that March 14 involvement in the Syrian uprising would not serve Lebanon’s interest.
“Interfering in Syrian affairs and acting as a party inside Syria do not serve Lebanon’s interest at all, especially those who raised the ‘Lebanon First’ slogan and later upgraded their slogan to become part of the campaign seeking to change the regime,” Fneish said in a speech at a ceremony in Beirut’s southern suburbs.
“Changing and toppling the regimes is not our business. This is the business of the people. If we have advice or a vision to prevent a deterioration of the situation in a country ... it will be suitable to intervene to serve the interest of Syria and the region,” he said.
Hariri raised the “Lebanon First” slogan designed to prod rival Lebanese factions to give priority to Lebanon’s interest over the interests of regional countries that wield influence in the country.
“There are local parties that are betting on changing the internal equation. They have no other means to reach power except by betting on a regional change [in Syria] [in the hope] it would serve them. This [bet] is an illusion, an act of futility and playing with fire because if the situation in Syria is not settled down, it will affect us,” Fneish said.
Meanwhile, a war words erupted between Jumblatt and Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun over the proportional representation proposal.
“You scare away the Druze from us, Jumblatt, and you live on lies,” Aoun told a crowd of supporters in Jounieh Saturday. “Jumblatt’s opposition to proportional representation is a crime committed against the people of the Chouf; proportional representation would give him his natural [political] weight,” Aoun said.
Aoun was responding to Jumblatt’s comments Friday in which he described the FPM as a useless party. Jumblatt responded to Aoun’s speech. “I will say nothing about the man who swore yesterday,” Jumblatt told reporters during a ceremony to honor PSP veterans in the mountain town of Aley, southeast of Beirut, Sunday.© Copyright The Daily Star 2012.
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