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Division over Hitto | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Ghassan Hitto, the man chosen to head the Syrian opposition’s new interim government, listens to Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, unseen, during a meeting in Ankara, Turkey, Friday, March 22, 2013. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)

“His origins are Kurdish and he was born in Damascus; this allows him to create good relations with all Syria’s communities. He could become the best mediator to resolve unsettled issues because he belongs to more than one community.”

This is how President of the Syrian National Coalition, Sheikh Moaz Alkhatib, described Syria’s newly-elected interim Prime Minister Ghassan Hitto. Alkhatib’s opinion of Hitto is optimistic and a strong response against many critical or rejectionist voices. A number of coalition leaders resigned in protest against Hitto’s election. This move has embarrassed the Syrians, and perhaps strengthened the view being promoted by the Damascus regime that the opposition is only interested in seizing power, and will fight to do so.

In fact, the Syrian National Coalition leadership has truly disagreed on everything to do with organization, hierarchy, and structure, not to mention who should be in charge. They first disagreed over who should preside over the Syrian National Council, following this who should run the National Coalition, while now they are disputing Hitto’s election. There were previous attempts to form similar entities and organizations, such as the Syrian Revolutionary Board of Trustees, which also announced a transitional government. However this project died just one day after its announcement.

The Syrian National Coalition, which is the huge umbrella group that is now representing all Syrian opposition groups, contains sixteen separate parties representing all Syrian groups and communities; while some of these parties themselves are unions of smaller parties and groups. This gives a clearer picture regarding the difficulties of managing the Syrian opposition, while also raising concerns about the future of Syria after Bashar Al-Assad’s regime has been toppled.

Anybody who has monitored the history of countries that have passed through similar stages of unrest will see that the Syrian opposition is following the usual scenario. The Syrian regime has marginalized and excluded all sides in the country over the past 40 years; now that they have re-emerged following the start of the revolution, it is only natural for them to compete against each other. We can draw parallels with Iraq, because following President Saddam Hussein’s defeat in 1991 [in the first Gulf War] and his ouster in 2003, the country’s opposition lived in a perpetual state of rivalry and dispute which lasted 12 years.

However we do not expect the Syrian opposition in exile to quarrel with each other, particularly as this only helps the regime and expands the conflict. The most important thing is to work to establish a political regime that is fair. The Syrian people should not be concerned with choosing a president and government officials; now is not the time for this.

I do not know if Ghassan Hitto is the right choice for interim prime minister or not; we cannot judge him until he has been in the job for at least a few months. We must also bear in mind that whatever Syrian candidate had been chosen would have faced vetoes and withdrawals. Since there is no fair mechanism to represent the Syrian people in the coalition’s election, and this is an impossibility under the current circumstances, then those who believe in the Syrian people’s revolution must accept that Hitto received the majority vote.

It is a symbolic choice that demonstrates that the Syria of tomorrow is able to embrace all its citizens regardless of their ethnic and religious affiliation. Hitto’s election is a message to the sectarian Syrians who support the revolution, as well as those who oppose it. This is a message to the world responding to those who view the Syrian people’s demands for the overthrow of Assad as nothing more than a Sunni movement against the ruling Alawite ruler. This is a view that diminishes the reality behind the Syrian revolution that is being waged against a brutal regime that has ruled the country with an iron fist over the past 40 years.