BEIRUT — Yet another patrilineal transfer of power in Lebanon.
Chouf MP Teymour Joumblatt officially assumed the reins of the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) on Sunday, succeeding his father, Druze leader Walid Joumblatt, who announced his withdrawal from the party’s presidency and its executive committee last month.
"Go forward and don't be afraid. God is with you,” Walid Joumblatt told his son in a speech following Teymour's election, to rapturous applause.
After videos marking milestones in the PSP's history, the elder Joumblatt addressed several issues on the local scene.
"Dialogue is the only way to reach a compromise and consolidate reconciliation," said the Druze leader, adding that "comprehensive and radical reforms are more than necessary."
He also stressed the "need to strengthen the army and its capabilities, and to implement a defense strategy," referring to the thorny issue of Hezbollah's weapons. "I hope that the journey will continue with those with whom we brought down the slogan of May 17th," in a reference to the brief agreement signed in 1983, in the midst of civil war, between Lebanon and Israel to end the state of war between the two countries.
Taking the floor afterward, the new PSP leader promised to "continue working to ensure that the presidential elections take place, despite some [political parties'] rejection, in order to turn around the economy and preserve the rights and dignity of citizens."
At the end of the ballot, Zafer Nasser was elected Secretary General of the PSP. Habouba Aoun and Zaher Raad are Teymour Joumblatt's new vice-presidents. Nach'at Houssnieh, Mohammad Basbous, Rima Saliba, Marwa Abi Farraj, Lama Hariz, Rina Houssnieh, Kamal Ghosseini and Hussein Idris were elected members of the party's Board of Directors.
The election results yielded almost equal representation for men and women, after the PSP introduced a 30 percent quota for women for the first time this year.
Walid Joumblatt became head of the party in 1977, following the assassination of his father Kamal Joumblatt near a Syrian army checkpoint, two years after the start of the Lebanese civil war [1975-1990]. He has held this position without interruption since that date.
The younger Joumblatt, 41, was elected following a ballot at the Grand Hotel Victoria, in Ain Zhalta, Chouf. PSP supporters also elected the members of the party's General Secretariat.
'Teymour is a promising young man'
On the ground, the transfer of power is not unanimously welcomed. Some party members, who make no secret of their apprehension, flock to Walid Joumblatt to talk to him before the vote.
"I hope Teymour Joumblatt will live up to [Walid] and Kamal's expectations. He will certainly give the party a younger image, but in my opinion, Walid Joumblatt should have stayed at the head of the PSP," said a party member in her fifties, speaking on condition of anonymity.
"We still don't accept the fact that Walid Joumblatt is no longer the rais [head]. It will take time," said Farah Abi Maataz, from Chouf. "Teymour is a promising young man," she adds, noting that the fact that he didn't grow up in Lebanon will enable him to tackle certain issues in a different way.
"Change is difficult. We're moving from one generation to another. We trust Teymour, but we're used to [Walid], who has more experience," said a 17-year-old attendee at the event.
"Teymour represents the voice of youth and reason. This is clear from the draft laws he put forward in Parliament," said an 18-year-old from Baisour, Aley. "We all have the same nostalgia ... but we support [PSP’s] politics. Whoever the person is, the values are the same."
In 2017, Walid Joumblatt symbolically placed the black-and-white-checkered keffiyeh on his son's shoulders before a crowd in Moukhtara, designating him as his successor. A year later, Teymour was elected deputy and headed the party's parliamentary group. In the 2022 legislative elections, he won more votes and retained his seat.
Walid's intention to give his son the last word on political issues had been mentioned several times in recent years. Last year, Teymour delivered the speech marking the commemoration of Kamal Joumblatt's assassination to a crowd of supporters.
In early May, after a meeting in Ain al-Tineh with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, the elder Joumblatt declared, in response to several political questions, that "the future lies with Teymour."
The enthronement of the young Teymour Joumblatt comes at a time when negotiations are in full swing for Lebanon's next president. Walid Joumblatt had repeatedly criticized the candidacy of Marada Movement leader Sleiman Frangieh, backed by Hezbollah and Amal Movement.
Their opponents, including the PSP, backed Zgharta MP Michel Moawad before endorsing former Finance Minister Jihad Azour.
Additional reporting by Lyana Alameddine