Syrian armed opposition to name premier in Istanbul

Syrian armed opposition to name premier in Istanbul

Syrian armed opposition to name premier in Istanbul

Syrian flags wave at the Vatican as Pope Francis recites an initial blessing. AP photo

A former agriculture minister and an economist are the leading candidates to be named Syria’s first rebel prime minister when the opposition Syrian National Coalition meets to vote in Turkey today.

The two men are among around 10 opposition figures coalition members are expected to consider during their gathering in Istanbul today and tomorrow.

The list includes virtual unknowns, as well as some prominent members of the opposition to President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, with former Agriculture Minister Asaad Mustapha and economist Osama Kadi believed to be leading the pack.

In moving to select a rebel premier, who will choose a Cabinet to be approved by the coalition, the opposition is hoping to show it can administer large swathes of captured territory.

Qatar and Saudi Arabia likely to influence

Opposition members said they wanted a good administrator with long-standing ties to the uprising, although nations backing the rebels, including Qatar and Saudi Arabia, are also likely to influence the choice. “The prime minister must be a man who is completely with the revolution, and it is better that it be someone who was in Syria until recently, not someone who has lived abroad for a long time,” opposition figure Haytham al-Maleh said.

“The next prime minister won’t be chosen on the basis of whose name is most circulated in the media, but on the basis of who is best able to lead a government that takes care of the Syrian people and addresses their most pressing needs,” added Ahmed Ramadan, a member of the Syrian National Coalition. Kadi, born in Aleppo in 1968, is founder of the Syrian Centre for Political and Strategic Studies in Washington and favored for his technocratic background.

Mustapha, born in Idlib in 1947, brings experience as a minister under Syria’s former President Hafez al-Assad for eight years. “If what’s wanted is a technocrat then perhaps Osama Kadi will win. And if the choice is based on who has experience and is the most capable politically, it will be Asaad Mustapha,” Ramadan told Agence France-Presse. At least one potential candidate, Christian dissident Michel Kilo, has already made clear he will not be standing, and neither former Syrian National Council head Burhan Ghalioun nor defected former Prime Minister Riad Hijab appear on the current list.

Ramadan said the coalition was expected to hold an initial vote, followed by a run-off between the top two candidates. The decision to name a prime minister and form an interim government is opposed by some opposition figures, who favor the creation of an executive body with limited powers to administer rebel-held territory. Council members said those opposed to creating an interim government want dialogue with the regime and the formation of a government composed of regime and opposition members.