Syrian opposition leader Burhan Ghalioun resigns amid mounting criticism


The head of Syria’s most-recognized opposition bloc, Burhan Ghalioun, has announced that he is stepping down as leader of the Syrian National Council (SNC) after mounting criticism of his leadership.

“I am announcing my resignation as head of the Council. I call on the Syrian opposition to break the cycle of conflicts and preserve unity,” Ghalioun told Al Arabiya.

“I declare my resignation as soon as a replacement is found through elections or consensus,” Ghalioun added.

On Tuesday, Ghalioun was reelected head of the exiled coalition in the face of opposition by some members of the secretariat and rules that require the president’s rotation every three months.

Opposition activists had spoken of the “deteriorating situation in the SNC” when the Local Coordination Committees (LCC), a network of activists on the ground in Syria, threatened on Thursday to pull out of opposition bloc the Syrian National Council over its “monopolization” of power.

“The deteriorating situation in the SNC is an impetus for us to take actions, which could begin with a freeze (of LCC membership in the SNC) and end with a withdrawal if errors are not solved and demands for reform go unmet,” the LCC said in a statement.

These “errors” were “a total absence of consensus between the SNC’s vision and that of the revolutionaries”; “a marginalization of most (LCC) representatives”; and “a monopolization of decision-making by influential members of the executive bureau.”

The SNC was particularly criticized for not sufficiently coordinating with activists on the ground, and for the strong influence wielded by Syrian Muslim Brotherhood representatives.

Most opposition forces agreed in March, after laborious negotiations, that the SNC would be the “formal representative” of the Syrian people, despite calls for its restructuring.

The move came in response to calls from the international community that the Syrian opposition must unify its ranks.

Ghalioun’s reelection mandate was intended to last three months. His reappointment came after a 72 hour long-drawn-out and hardly-fought meeting of the representatives of the major SNC forces in a hotel in the center of Rome.

Ghalioun, who is a professor and lives in Paris, was not new to Syrian uprisings; in fact he returned to the scene in 2011 picking up from where he left off.

Ten years ago, he participated in the Damascus Spring, a period of intense political debate after the death of President Hafez al-Assad, in June 2000, and which continued to some degree until autumn 2001, when most of the activities associated with it were suppressed by the government.