Lebanon News

Amine Gemayel to step down as leader of Kataeb

Former President Amin Gemayel speaks during a press conference in Beirut, Monday, May 18, 2015. (The Daily Star/Dalati Nohra, HO)

BEIRUT: Kataeb Party leader Amine Gemayel announced Monday that he would not seek another term at the head of one of Lebanon’s oldest political parties, as his son, MP Sami Gemayel, emerged as a likely successor.

“I informed members of the political bureau that I would not run for a new term in the middle of June, and my comrades were surprised,” Gemayel said, after chairing the weekly meeting of the party’s political bureau.

“But I consider that having new cadres [of officials] serves the party’s interests, particularly given the [current] circumstances and the developments we are witnessing,” added Gemayel, 73.

A new president, along with members of the party’s political bureau and other officials, will be elected in the middle of June, when the Kataeb Party holds its 30th general conference to assess policies.

Gemayel boasted that the party was one of the few practicing democratic bodies in the region, noting that 400 elected Kataeb representatives vote for the members of the party’s political bureau and other official positions.

“This is a unique democratic experience which the Kataeb Party practices,” Gemayel said. “Several presidents have been elected over the past 80 years. This indicates that [the party] renews itself, and is characterized by a democratic experience that is still alive.”

President of Lebanon from 1982 till 1988, Gemayel is the son of Pierre Gemayel, who founded the Kataeb Party in 1936.

The party was the strongest Christian group during most of Lebanon’s 1975-1990 Civil War, in which it was a major participant.

Following the death of Pierre Gemayel in 1984, Georges Saade, Munir Hajj and Karim Pakradouni each led the party before Amine Gemayel was elected Kataeb president in 2007.

MP Sami Gemayel, Amine’s son, has the best chances of being elected to the top post, Kataeb MP Fadi Habr told The Daily Star, explaining that he possesses all the required qualifications.

“In short, Kataeb members and supporters admire the Gemayel family,” Habr said, describing the Gemayels as “a family of holiness on the national level.”

“Regardless of the fact that he [Sami Gemayel] is the grandson of the founder of the party and the son of the president, he has proved himself in the party’s bloc,” Habr said.

“This is in terms of his boldness, radicalism, clarity and his draft laws against corruption.”

Habr added that aside from being an MP, the 34-year-old Sami Gemayel was a practicing lawyer. “He represented us during talks on the electoral law [in 2013].”

Asked about the role of MP Nadim Gemayel, son of assassinated President-elect Bachir Gemayel and Amine’s nephew, Habr said that the party had room for everybody.

“We admire Nadim. He is the son of Bachir at the end. I advise him that he always remain positive.”

While noting that Nadim Gemayel was “also capable,” Habr said Sami Gemayel was one of the “most capable” in the party.

“Nadim knows his limits and is working on developing the party. He is beside Sami and not against him.”

Although he will no longer be the party’s leader come June, Amine Gemayel said he would continue to monitor the party’s progress.

“I will remain beside the new leadership, in order to achieve additional victories on the national and political levels.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 19, 2015, on page 3.

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