Syrian rebels elect Prime Minister
Syria’s rebel coalition has elected Ghassan Hitto, an American IT manager, as their Prime Minister.
Hitto, an Islamic activist, will be in charge of rebel-held areas in Syria where interim governments will be administered. The vote last night in Istanbul saw Hitto gain 35 out of the 48 ballot votes cast by the opposition Syrian National Coalition. He did not receive a resounding mandate from the coalition as only 48 of the 63 active members voted, with 4 casting blank ballots.
“I miss my wife and children and I look forward to seeing them soon,” said Hitto, who has lived in the United States for decades and recently moved from Texas to Turkey to help co-ordinate aid to rebel-held areas.
The new Prime Minister was born in Damascus but is little-known in Syria as he has spent most of his life in the United States, with academic degrees from Purdue University and Indiana Wesleyan University.
There have been previous attempts by the coalition to elect a Prime Minister but fighting within the opposition brought these to a halt. The election however has not been popular with all its members, either.
“How can a civilian come and tell these fighters on the ground: ‘Drop your weapons, it’s my turn to rule’?” asked Adib Shishakly, the coalition’s representative, to a group of Gulf nations known as the Gulf Co-operation Council, before the results were announced.
Some have also expressed worries that fighters on the ground may not take lightly to rule from someone who has spent so long outside the country.
When asked what his interim government’s first priority would be, Hitto said he planned to give a speech later on Tuesday outlining his plans.