Discussions have begun again over the formation of the expanded Syrian National Coalition with the backdrop of the planned announcement of a transitional government – or its alternative.
The new momentum has come as two new groups joined the Coalition, including the Democratic Front, with 21 members and the Free Syrian Army, with 15 members.
In the last meeting, which ended with the election of the new President of the Coalition and new leadership committee, a majority decided to exempt Ghassan Hitto from his position and to delay issue of the formation of the transitional government to the end of Ramadan or afterwards.
The Coalition is to nominate several figures to head the new government. Each should detail his governance program, to be discussed before one of them is chosen.
Sources close to the Coalition say that attitudes inside the group are divided into three blocs. The first is the bloc close to Saudi Arabia, with its favorite nominee being Ahmad Tohmeh al-Khodr. Khodr was chosen during the recent visit of members of the Syrian National Council to Saudi Arabia to discuss the new alliances in and expansion of the Coalition.
Khodr gained acceptance from the Muslim Brotherhood because he is an Islamist, but was also accepted by the Damascus Declaration group as former member. The Saudi Arabian bloc accept him as he is a former detainee with credentials inside Syria, in addition to being peaceful, uncontroversial and neutral.
Khodr is a dentist originally from Deir al-Zor, who was detained after giving a speech at the funeral of Mohammad Murshed al-Khaznawi.
If the government is formed, former agriculture minister Asaad Mustafa would become deputy prime minister. Ghassan Hitto is a possible candidate for the position of second deputy because of his efforts in preparing the government. There will be also a limited government concerned with politics and services, consisting of ten members.
As for the second bloc, represented by Mutafa al-Sabbagh, Imad Rasheed and the other part of the Damascus Declaration, George Sabra, Abdul Ahed Stefo and Samir Nashar, their nominee is the former Syrian Prime Minister Riyad Hijab. However, this group had had previously supported Ghassan Hitto.
Some sources claimed that Riyad Hijab doesn’t have any hope and point out that he lacks enthusiasm, so the bloc will search for another nominee. Nonetheless this bloc supports the formation of a government and if it nominated the new leader, the whole government would be a technocratic rather that political one.
The third bloc consists of liberals, seculars and minorities headed by Michel Kilo, figures inside other blocs or small groups inside the Coalition, as well as independents. This bloc could be seen to be presenting the agenda of western countries which don’t want a government but a commission or executive body with ministerial tasks. This remains a possibility at the international level as it does not require the level of popular legitimacy in government.
Kilo began to move inside this framework and has promoted the idea of an executive commission in media statements. This has irritated the two other blocs which consider it in breach of the Coalition’s constitution.
Translated and edited by The Syrian Observer