Syrian opposition to hold runoff vote for new leader

Coalition has been without a leader for months; runoff ballot to be held between Saudi and Qatari favorites.

By REUTERS
July 6, 2013 04:36
Syrian opposition attend  National Conference.

Syrian internal opposition members (R370). (photo credit: REUTERS/Khaled Al Hariri)

 
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ISTANBUL- The Syrian opposition voted on Saturday to elect a new leader, but the top two candidates failed to gain a simple majority needed to become president of the coalition fighting to oust President Bashar Assad.

A runoff ballot was scheduled for later on Saturday after Ahmad Jarba, a tribal figure linked with Saudi Arabia, and Mustafa al-Sabbagh, a businessman who is Qatar's point man, did not gain more than half of the votes in the 115 member Syrian National Coalition in an early morning ballot in Istanbul.

The coalition is split into three power centers: the Muslim Brotherhood, the Sabbagh faction, and a Saudi-backed bloc that includes Jarba.

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The three factions held the vote for a new leader after failing to agree on a compromise candidate.

The coalition has been without a leader for months after its head quit over disagreement over potential talks with Assad's government.

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