BEIRUT – Nearly two dozen members of the opposition Citizens in a State (MMFD) party resigned after internal party bylaws were changed last week that could potentially extend the term of party leader Charbel Nahas, according to current and former members.
Nahas co-founded MMFD in 2016 to advocate for “an organized political movement” toward an “integral, civil, democratic, just and potent State in Lebanon.”
Nahas, who is also the former Minister of Labor, did not respond to repeated attempts for comment.
In the May 2022 parliamentary elections, the party garnered a total of 70,782 list and preferential votes, including votes for lists in which MMFD participated alongside allies, but did not gain any seats in Parliament.
Nahas has been criticized by some for what they see as rash behavior that pushed away potential voters. But he has been applauded by others for his early warnings about Lebanon’s impending economic meltdown.
Controversy erupted last week when an amendment to the internal bylaws was put forward to the party council delegates. Such a measure needed two-thirds approval.
“Those opposed to this proposal resigned and those who remained voted on it, which was not right,” one current MMFD member told L’Orient Today on condition of anonymity, as he was not authorized to speak to the press.
The measure was approved by the remaining delegates, making it possible for party leaders to run for a third term. Nahas is currently serving his second term as Secretary General, which is set to expire in Jan. 2024.
The @mmfidawla internal collapse is rlly sad and such a shame but you could see it coming. People have been criticizing Nahas and mmfd leadership for their authoritarian and patriarchal tendencies for awhile but members always made excuses for it, and now it's all been validated. https://t.co/qrSxrCUBUF— Nadim El Kak (@NadimElkak) December 26, 2022
“On the surface, the change doesn’t mean much. But when you couple it with other things going on, there are issues,” the party member said.
He added that the MMFD’s council delegates, who oversee the work of the General Secretary, had their roles reduced in recent months, leaving them unable to monitor his activities.
In the wake of the May 2022 parliamentary elections, “several steps were taken to clip the wings of people who could’ve been leaders in the party,” according to the party source. An MMFD spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment.
The news comes just days after the Constitutional Council rejected an appeal by Jad Ghosn, a high-profile MMFD candidate and political commentator, who unsuccessfully ran for one of the Metn’s Maronite seats.
When contacted by L’Orient Today, Ghosn said he had “complete trust in Nahas’ work and his political project and vision” but as a non-member of MMFD, he could not comment on internal party issues.
Lawyer Moussa Khoury, who ran with Nahas in Beirut I electoral district, told L’Orient Today that he was unaware of the resignations as he is not part of the party’s leadership, but stressed that changes to the internal bylaws had nothing to do with the intent to extend Nahas’ term.
Among those who resigned is Rania Masri, a member of MMFD since 2016, who wrote on her Facebook page Tuesday that the party leadership “does not trust the members of the movement, despite their inspiring abilities.”
She cited the amendments to the internal bylaws as the reason for her resignation, which she described as “introduced in a way that contradicts the internal bylaws” and done “to grant absolute power to one position within the party, which I consider a coup against the approach of critical thought and the will to build the capacities of party members.”
“Unfortunately, the party’s leadership has proven over the past two years that it does not respect the bylaws it drafted,” Masri also wrote. She declined to offer further comment to L’Orient Today.
Several of those who ran in the May 2022 parliamentary elections were among the party members who resigned.
The anonymous party member added that “I am not ready to resign, but the decision is not far away. I’m waiting to see if we can recover.”
“When you join a political group, you enter an agreement with it that is the party bylaws and now all of a sudden the party changed them,” he said.