Lebanon News

Rival Christian parties finalize declaration of intent

File- MP Ibrahim Kanaan speaks during a press conference at the Parliament in Beirut. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: The Lebanese Forces and the Free Patriotic Movement have finalized and begun implementation of a long-awaited declaration of intent, members of the rival Christian groups said Friday, adding that an official announcement was pending security arrangements.

“We finished the drafting [of the declaration of intent] and agreed on all its items,” MP Ibrahim Kanaan, from the FPM, told The Daily Star.

“As for the official announcement, it needs a specific process which we are currently discussing,” he added.

But even though it has yet to be officially announced, the contents of the agreement have already gone into effect, he added.

“We have moved [toward] political implementation in terms of [our stances on] legislation and the electoral law.”

In a rare show of unity, the FPM and the LF announced that they would only attend an upcoming legislative session if its agenda included both a draft election law and a bill that would allow foreigners of Lebanese origin to acquire citizenship. Both groups argue that any new election law must provide fairer representation for Christians.

Bitter rivals whose leaders engaged in a bloody conflict in the final year of Lebanon’s 1975-90 Civil War, the LF and FPM have held a series of dialogue sessions over the past five months with the aim of agreeing on a declaration of intent.

Kanaan said the document was composed of 16 items that tackle various issues including “the structure of the state, sovereignty issues, expanded administrative decentralization, land and identity.”

The talks have reduced tensions in Christian areas, particularly among university students affiliated with the rival parties.

The dialogue sessions began the same month as talks kicked off between Hezbollah and the Future Movement, also fierce rivals.

Kanaan explained that in line with the document, the LF and FPM were jointly discussing issues related to public finance.

The LF argues that the draft 2015 budget must include figures from the proposed public sector salary scale, a suggestion the FPM opposes.

For its part, the FPM demands an audit of extra-budgetary spending, estimated at $11 billion, under the governments of former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora between 2005 and 2009.

Echoing Kanaan, Melhem Riachi, chairman of the Lebanese Forces’ Communications Department, said security details were delaying the official announcement of the declaration.

It will reportedly be officially announced at a meeting between FPM head Michel Aoun and LF leader Samir Geagea.

Riachi said that the united position of the LF and FPM on the upcoming legislative session was in line with the new agreement.

As for the presidential election, a major source of disagreement between the rival parties, Kanaan and Riachi said the LF and the FPM had agreed on the characteristics that a new president must possess.

“We specified our ambitions regarding the presidency and evaluated the implementation of the Constitution,” Kanaan added.

But though it may reduce tensions, the declaration is unlikely to change the political alignment of either the FPM or the LF.

Geagea’s presidential candidacy is backed by the March 14 coalition, while Aoun’s is supported by the March 8 alliance.

The two parties also disagree over the legitimacy of Hezbollah’s arms and have diverging stances on the ongoing conflict in neighboring Syria among other issues.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 09, 2015, on page 1.




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