Democratic Gathering Stance Not Clear: Jumblat Has Upper Hand in Deciding Future of Lebanese Politics

All eyes are turned to Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblat whose decision on his bloc's nominee for the premier's post could be a turning point in Lebanese political life.

By Monday, the result of the consultations of President Michel Suleiman with the 128-member parliament, was far from certain. The rival March 8 and 14 camps have around 58 or 59 lawmakers each with Jumblat holding the decisive vote with his 11 MPs.

The Democratic Gathering leader said Sunday that his bloc will take a united stance with regards to choosing Lebanon's next prime minister.

"The important thing is to form a national unity government that would deal with the repercussions of the indictment" that will be issued by the international tribunal in ex-Premier Rafik Hariri's assassination case, Jumblat told al-Manar television.

However, a Mustaqbal bloc MP told pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat that the Druze leader's MPs will be divided over the choice of premier. "It is clear that Jumblat made a commitment to the Syrians that he and his five party MPs would vote for the Hizbullah nominee while the rest of the Gathering's MPs have decided to stick by PM Hariri."

Jumblat called off the bloc's meeting that was scheduled for Sunday afternoon to take a stance from the consultations. Instead, he held talks with Speaker Nabih Berri in Ain el-Tineh.

Democratic Gathering MP Alaeddine Terro told Asharq al-Awsat that the bloc hasn't yet decided on its nominee for the premier's post and "whether it would nominate one person or whether its vote would be divided."

Jumblat had been allied with Hariri but moved closer to Hizbullah in 2009.

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