Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Syrian National Coalition, the main umbrella group for opposition forces, is preparing to elect a replacement president as incumbent Ahmed Al-Jarba’s second and final term draws to an end.
Names of several potential candidates for the leadership of the Western-backed opposition group have been put forward, including former Syrian prime minister Riyad Hijab, Ahmed Ramadan, a senior opposition figure, said in exclusive comments to Asharq Al-Awsat.
Ramadan played up Hijab’s chances of securing leadership of the body, citing his “political experience and knowledge of the domestic situation in Syria.”
Hijab, who joined the opposition in August 2012—only two months after he took office as prime minister under embattled Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad—remains the most senior official to have defected from the regime.
“The future needs a person who has political experience and is knowledgeable about the domestic situation in Syria,” Ramadan said, reinforcing recent doubts about the current opposition leader’s lack of experience.
Ramadan’s remarks also echo recent media reports talking about Hijab being the opposition’s favorite candidate to lead the Coalition.
The former prime minister faces two other potential contenders in the vote to be held by the Coalition’s 120-member General Authority: Badr Jamous, the Coalition’s secretary-general, and Hadi Al-Bahra, who led the Syrian opposition’s negotiation team at Geneva II.
But Ramadan said none of those candidates “enjoy the same level of approval and consensus as Hijab, who is known for being a figure with a successful experience in leadership and administration.”
After he left the Assad government, Hijab formed the Free National Rally for Workers in Government Institutions, an anti-Assad body that includes hundreds of former Syrian officials who left Syria in protest against the regime. It seeks to “protect state institutions from collapsing in the event Assad is toppled.” Before becoming prime minister, Hijab served variously as the governor of Deir Ezzor and as agriculture minister.