The beleaguered Syrian Opposition Coalition was thrown into further disarray Tuesday after dozens of members resigned to protest the re-election of the incumbent president over the weekend, and the group’s position on proposed U.S-Russian backed peace talks in Switzerland.
The coalition was meeting for an extended third day of talks in Turkey after prominent members quit the group following the election of Ahmad Jarba for a second term Friday.
Divisions within the 120-member coalition were deepened when dozens of high profile members from some five factions resigned over what they said was vote-buying and pressure to attend the proposed negotiations with the Syrian government at the Swiss talks, dubbed "Geneva-2"
Jarba, who was first elected as president with Saudi Arabia’s backing in July, was voted in for a second term with 65 votes late Friday, beating his only rival, former Syrian Prime Minister Riad Hijab, who won 52 of the coalition members’ votes.
Hijab had secured the support of a powerful faction backed by Qatar and Turkey, and aligned with power broker Mustafa Sabbagh, who is close to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Badr Jammous was re-elected secretary-general, while Abdel-Hakim Bashar, the Brotherhood’s Farouk Tayfour, and independent Nora al-Amir were elected vice presidents.
The coalition delayed the election of the political bureau of the group due to the resignations.
The coalition had also been expected to settle on a final answer on attendance at Geneva-2 talks but that too was delayed.
Those who quit the opposition coalition said the al-Jarba bloc is intent on going to Geneva despite the lack of guarantees demanded by the opposition.
Among those who quit the group was Kamal Labwani, a member of the National Opposition Change Current. He said some 40 members resigned in protest over the election.
Labwani said "al-Jarba means Geneva means money", adding “the coalition is trying to trick us. Al-Jarba had been offering assurances to the U.N, the U.S. and Russia, without consultation with the coalition".