BEIRUT (Aztag)–Lebanese Prime Minister Salim Hoss announced his electoral alliance for Beirut’s District Three on Monday–formally launching his campaign with an impassioned defense of his government’s performance and an indication that he was ready to take up a fifth term as prime minister.
Singling out sectarian fanaticism and `political money’ as the main of obstacles that undermined democracy and his drive for reform–Hoss promised to work on eliminating both if he returned to power.
The prime minister kicked off his campaign from the Press Federation in Raouche. More than 200 supporters packed the building–braving a breakdown in the ventilation system–which found Education Minister Mohammed Youssef Beydoun–one of Hoss’ candidates–repeatedly wiping the sweat off the premier’s forehead with a napkin as he delivered his speech.
The seven-man National Action List will compete against allies of former prime Minister Rafik Hariri’s Dignity List. Hoss and his long-time friend and ally–Ahmad Tabbara–will run for the two Sunni seats; Beydoun for the Shiite; and Minister of Post Telecommunications Issam Naaman–another old-time friend–for the Druze. Environment Minister Arthur Nazarian will run for one of two Armenian Orthodox seats and Armenian Revolutionary Federation official Hagop Pakradouni for the other–while Stefan Abadjian will aim for the Armenian Catholic slot.
Also present was the representative of the ARF Lebanon Central Committee
To appeal to the younger group of voters–Hoss said that he had campaigned for lowering the voting age to 18–but `the general political conditions in the country blocked the motion.’
He defended his political career over two decades–recalling how he always was called upon to form governmen’s in times of crises – the first two times marred by civil war divisions under the late President Elias Sarkis and later under ex-President Amin Gemayel.
As for the brief spell under President Elias Hrawi–he had to grapple with the legacy of the conflict–he said.
"I returned to power for a fourth time during the term of the noble president–General Emile Lahoud–when the country was straining under debts and fiscal deficits,’ he said. Despite the challenges–he said–he succeeded in `eliminating the troika syndrome which had for six years encouraged nepotism and the division of spoils.’ Hoss reiterated that the administrative reform process had `run into political barriers,’ but he did not elaborate.
`I insist that administrative reform will be addressed if the political realities after parliamentary elections allow for this,’ he said–in a hint of his post-election aspirations.
The next signal came in a pledge to `uphold as a priority’ the `revitalization of democracy.’ He said that although the Lebanese enjoyed `many freedoms… democracy is almost non-existent,’ blaming `confessional–sectarian–tribal and regional fanaticism–coupled with nepotism.’
Earlier that day–the ARF Central Committee representative and the Armenian bloc representative Sebouh Hovanessian met with Hoss.
The Armenian delegation presented the United Armenian Bloc list to the prime minister and pledged their support for the Hoss’ efforts to maintain the majority in parliament. In conclusion–Hoss said he would gladly include the Armenian bloc with his slate of candidates.