He’s worse than Khatib, says Jumblatt
Daily Star: Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt on Tuesday criticized what he called rampant interference in the parliamentary elections, calling on President Emile Lahoud to restrain security agencies and reform the political system through a “correctionist movement.” He said: “There’s no war anymore. We’re heading to more stability and civil peace. We need to free people from several things, like the current election law and security agencies.” “I urge President Lahoud to work hard to neutralize and restrain some agencies and annul others,” he told the Voice of the People radio. “Among the agencies that I believe should go is the State Security Department.” The State Security Department was established in 1991 to create an agency with a chief from the Shiite community. It has been criticized by many politicians as infringing on the powers of the older Surete Generale Department. “With respect to the military intelligence, the Taif Accord’s provision on this matter should be respected. The agency should focus on the army’s security only,” Jumblatt said. The Druze leader also insisted that the judiciary become completely independent, calling judges “employees who work for the justice minister or some security officers.”
Jumblatt, a Chouf MP, said that circumstances surrounding the campaigns were reminiscent of the rigged 1957 polls, which were a key reason for the brief civil war of 1958. “I heard that President Lahoud was upset with me for this comparison. He thought I meant to compare him to (then) President Camille Chamoun,” he said.
“This isn’t what I meant, though President Chamoun was a great Lebanese leader and was decent in his rivalries,” he added. “I just meant that security agencies now are involving themselves in the campaign as the case was in 1957.” The PSP leader added: “I’m not afraid of the elections. I’m having a good time.” Jumblatt lashed out at Interior Minister Michel Murr, “who proved worse than his predecessor Sami Khatib. He’s actually a ‘super Khatib.’” Khatib was interior minister during the 1992 parliamentary elections, which many politicians claimed were full of illegal practices. “Minister Murr is omnipresent. He’s everything. He’s the whole government. He’s involved in administrative appointments and the judiciary,” Jumblatt said. “He’s the high commissioner,” he added, referring to the topmost official of the 1918-1943 French mandate. “Other ministers willingly gave up their prerogatives to minister Murr. I hope President Lahoud corrects this. We need a ‘correctionist movement,’ not just on the level of a minister, but on the national level,” he said, using the phrase that Syrian President Hafez Assad coined for his bloodless coup in 1970.
Jumblatt also criticized a “decision” to keep the Communist Party, which he is courting as an election ally in the Baabda-Aley and Western Bekaa-Rashaya districts, out of Parliament. “I’m doing my job as the interior minister by securing electoral cards to supporters of Mr. Jumblatt and his allies,” Murr said later on Tuesday. “But as a person, I do have relatives and friends in other electoral districts who listen to my advise with respect to the polls. I’m not neutral in this respect.” Asked about the alliance in the Baabda-Aley electoral district between Hizbullah, Amal, the Syrian Social Nationalist Party and his arch rival, Aley MP Talal Arslan, Jumblatt said: “It’s an alliance between the remnants of parties that should modernize their political discourse to suit the 21st century.” He stressed that “the elections battle is a battle for bringing to Parliament deputies who are independent enough from the government to reconsider the government’s structure and the election law, which should carve out small districts.” Jumblatt voiced support for the re-appointment of Rafik Hariri as prime minister. “He’s needed for any plan to develop Lebanese regions to achieve economic development throughout the country,” he said. Jumblatt welcomed the return of former President Amin Gemayel this week after 12 years of self-imposed exile as “a step toward restoring balances in the country,” and urged for a similar return by former army commander General Michel Aoun, who left in 1991.
He also called for a “political solution” for Samir Geagea, the only warlord tried and jailed, “in order to close the war file” and added that “security agencies can’t continue to act like ghosts. Either all leaders be free or all of them go to prison.” Jumblatt said that a Syrian official that he refused to name “told me yesterday (on Monday) that Syria will not be involved in the elections. But some groups, including those opposed to me, describe themselves as allies of Syria.” Jumblatt is due to visit Lahoud on Wednesday “to discuss development issues, including the return of the displaced, in addition to political issues,” he told Beirut Orthodox Archbishop Elias Aoude on Tuesday. He said the meeting with the cleric “was a visit of dialogue, accord and consultation.”