Lebanon News

Hezbollah will not impose vote law: Nasrallah

Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah speaks on a screen via a video link, during a rally to mark the "wounded resistance day," in a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, May 2, 2017. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

BEIRUT: Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah Tuesday denied that his party sought to impose an electoral law on rival parties, warning all sides of taking the country into abyss over the looming differences.

The Hezbollah chief called on local parties to reach common ground in a televised speech on the occasion of “Day of the Wounded” for the Islamic Resistance.

"We have to convince each other to reach a settlement," Nasrallah added.

The Hezbollah chief described talks on the electoral law as sensitive and "understandable," as some sides are dealing with it as a "matter of life or death.

He said that the vote law became a "matter of high-importance," warning parties that he didn't name of seeking to settle gains.

Nasrallah refuted accusations against his party of seeking to prevent Christians in Lebanon from electing their own representatives and seeking to prevent the Lebanese Forces and Free Patriotic Movement of garnering the veto power at the Parliament.

"These are empty accusations," he stressed.

Nasrallah said that Hezbollah had sounded its approval to the Orthodox vote law, which allows each sect to elect its representatives.

"We are not the ones to be accused with such claims."

The Orthodox Gathering Law, as it is called, was proposed in 2012 by former Deputy Speaker Elie Ferzli, and was supported mainly by the FPM. It essentially calls for each sect to elect its own MPs within the country as a single district. Critics, however, said it would aggravate sectarian divisions in the country.

Nasrallah reiterated that his party supports the adoption of a full proportional law, but "remains open to other proposals."

He denied that Hezbollah sought to impose a proportional system on rivals.

"We never held a weapon in the face of anyone, not in the Cabinet or Parliament to press the adoption of such an electoral law," he said, adding that Hezbollah had pushed for the adoption of a proportional vote law since it entered the Parliament in 1992.

"It's a conviction based on the national interest. It's the most fair and balanced law that isn't based on sectarian interests."

Hezbollah and Amal Movement were capable of securing their seats in Parliament regardless which electoral law is adopted, Nasrallah said.

"We are approaching the electoral law based on the country's national interest to establish a true Lebanese Parliament."

He expressed understanding to the concerns of all sects, particularly Druze and Christians, stressing that "dialogue was the only means to consensus."

"The time has passed, the country is on the edge of the abyss. If we don't reach a result all the alternatives are bad, from vacuum to the extension [of Parliament's term] to [staging the elections based on the current] 1960 majoritarian system," Nasrallah said.

He called on rivals not to push the country off the edge "because no one will be there to aid us. No one has time for us due to the situation in the world and the region."

"The country's fate is within our hands."

He said that all parties had placed their proposals out on the table and now it’s time to assume responsibilities.

"This is not a joke," he added.

Despite numerous high-level meetings and behind-the-scene consultations held over the past few weeks to agree on a new electoral legislation to replace the disputed 1960 majoritarian law, differences remain.

Parliamentary elections were originally scheduled to take place between May 21 and June 21, yet political deadlock is expected to delay elections beyond June.

Political rivals are locked in an indirect war of words over responsibility for failing to agree a new vote law ahead of a May 15 deadline to avert a new lengthy extension of Parliament’s term and set the stage for elections later this year.

Lebanon Security has Improved

Nasrallah said that Lebanon's security has improved as a result of armed groups in Syria losing their bases along the country's border.

Nasrallah said the relatively calm situation doesn't "mean that security threats ceased."

He pointed out that the outskirts of the northeastern border town of Arsal remain unstable, and added that the situation would be resolved in the coming stage.

"We should be keen to maintain security in Lebanon,” Nasrallah said. “The calm situation was achieved by the sacrifices made. We shouldn't allow any security breach to waste our efforts."

The Lebanese Army and Hezbollah pound militant hideouts in Arsal and Ras Baalbeck belonging to Daesh (ISIS) and Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, formerly the Nusra Front, on an almost daily basis.

Nasrallah said that the tripartite formula of the Army, people, and resistance keep Lebanon safe.

The army and security forces have been cracking down on sleeper cells as part of a comprehensive security plan since the northeastern border town of Arsal in the Bekaa Valley was briefly overrun by extremists in 2014.

Unemployment Rates Alarming

Nasrallah saluted workers on the occasion of Labor Day, warning of the alarming unemployment rates in Lebanon.

"Unemployment means poverty, which indicates instigating problems," he said.

Nasrallah called on the Cabinet and Parliament to prioritize employment.

While it is difficult to find accurate employment numbers in Lebanon, as official demographic statistics do not exist, a survey adopted by the labor minister in 2014 showed that 35 percent of Lebanon’s youth were unemployed. High unemployment rates among the younger generation have led to the mass emigration of Lebanese talent.

Intervening in Syria was Adequate

Fighting alongside Syrian forces in the neighboring country was "proper and timely,” Nasrallah said.

Syria is victorious because the state and army didn’t fall, he continued.

If takfiris prevailed in Syria, they would have come after Lebanon next.

"We are betting on our forces and presence in battle fields ... If we remain strong we will be respected. The world isn't looking for anyone's rights but narrow interests."

He warned that takfiri groups pose threats to Sunnis before anyone else.

Hezbollah acknowledged in 2013 that its forces were fighting alongside Syrian President Bashar Assad’s troops against armed groups and extremist organizations such as Daesh (ISIS). It is one of the major forces on the ground in the conflict, which erupted in March 2011.

Don't Expect Justice

Nasrallah expressed solidarity with more than 800 Palestinian prisoners demanding better conditions in Israeli prisons.

"We reached a stage where the Palestinian cause became forgotten, while Israel ... has time to do whatever it wants" he said.

Nasrallah criticized the Arab World, the United Nations and the international community over inaction.

"Don't expect justice or equality," he added.

An Israeli official said Monday on the 15th day of a hunger strike that the number of Palestinian prisoners participating in the protest had dropped to 870, down from 1,300 last week.

Lebanon's former Prime Minister Salim Hoss, 88, Tuesday joined a hunger strike.

The strike is one of the largest such protests in years.

Some 6,500 Palestinians are currently detained by Israel for a range of offences and alleged crimes.

Around 500 are being held under Israel's system of administrative detention, which allows for imprisonment without charge.





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