BEIRUT: The rift between Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Joumblatt and the Free Patriotic Movement escalated Friday after the former MP took a swipe at the FPM by labelling President Michel Aoun's tenure as a "failure" for blaming his presidency's shortcomings on the plight of Syrian refugees.
Joumblatt took to Twitter to blast the FPM's "racist campaign against refugees, who are being sent back to face execution at the hands of" Assad, maintaining that "refugees are being blamed for the dire state of the country but our disaster lies in a failed Aoun tenure since the beginning."
اما المهجرون في الارض فلا عيد لهم ولا راحة.يلاحقهم الموت في البحار وفي الصحاري تجار البشر .يهربون من الظلم والحروب من اجل حياة احسن فاذا بجدران الكراهية والعنصرية ترتفع في كل مكان ،وفي لبنان يطالبون بتسليمهم الى الجلاد بحجة تحميلهم سوأ الاحوال ومصيبتنا في عهد فاشل من اول لحظة pic.twitter.com/uu1Tc4Cc4k— Walid Joumblatt (@walidjoumblatt) June 15, 2018
The PSP leader and FPM have been trading barbs ever since the conclusion of the country's first parliamentary elections in nine years on May 6, which yielded a sizeable win for the FPM and their allies after they increased their bloc to 29 MPs.
Joumblatt and his main Druze rival Talal Arslan, who aligned himself with the FPM, have been bickering over the allocation of ministerial portfolios, with Joumblatt demanding that his party solely picks the three Druze ministerial posts up for grabs, leaving Arslan out of the equation.
The tug and pull between the PSP and FPM, the party which Aoun founded in 2005, led to its MPs hitting back at Joumblatt, with Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil claiming that "Aoun's tenure has accomplished more in one year than all the previous presidencies combined."
In a potential reference to Joumblatt's ill-advised comment calling "Maronites a bad race" in 2009, MP Elias Bou Saab maintained that "anyone who labels his fellow countrymen as racists loses credibility when he himself is inherently racist."
Lebanon's attempt to return the over 1.5 million refugees its hosting has been spearheaded by Foreign Minister and current FPM leader Gebran Bassil, who has been feuding with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for the pasts months. Bassil has vehemently argued that the UNHCR is implementing a systematic campaign to dissuade refugees from returning to areas deemed safe by stoking "their many concerns and fears."
He has threatened to increase pressure on the U.N. refugee agency if it does not change its policies, which he says discourage Syrian refugees from returning to their country.
In response to Joumblatt's scathing remarks, MP Farid Al Boustani took to Twitter asking him if "Aoun's tenure is a failure if we would like refugees to return to areas deemed safe, given the dire state of our economy and infrastructure?"
Lebanon is home to more than a million Syrian refugees, or about a quarter of the country's population, putting a huge strain on the economy.
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