Lebanon News

Berri warns instability can derail crucial upcoming events

Speaker Nabih Berri. (The Daily Star/ Leb Par web, HO)

BEIRUT: Speaker Nabih Berri said Wednesday that the deteriorating security situation in the country would negatively impact important upcoming events, implying June’s parliamentary elections.

“Stability should be the top priority of officials,” Berri was quoted as saying by MPs who attended athe speaker’s weekly meeting at his Ain al-Tineh residence.

According to the attendees, Berri said the deteriorating security situation would have a negative impact on all major events, and warned against “dangerous phenomena” in the country “that could undermine [its] stability.”

The speaker’s comments came hours after supporters of Sidon’s Salafist Sheikh Ahmad Assir blocked roads in Tripoli, the Bekaa Valley and Beirut Tuesday night to show support for the preacher who claimed that the Army was planning to raid his mosque in Abra. The Army dismissed the reports.

Assir and his supporters Wednesday blocked the road linking Sidon to Jezzine to protest what they called strict Army measures around the mosque.

The lawmakers present at the meeting also quoted Berri as saying the 1960 electoral law “has been buried and could by no means be revived.”

“There are new facts supporting this reality: for example, the fact that the deadline for calling on expatriates to take part in elections has already passed” and no such official call has been made, Berri was quoted as saying.

Although elections are scheduled for June, rival groups have failed to reach an agreement on a voting system that would govern the polls.

Batroun MP Butros Harb, from the March 14 camp, voiced his support for delaying the elections so lawmakers could have more time to negotiate an agreement over the electoral law.

“The elections are in great danger and the current situation shows that it’s almost impossible to hold them on time,” Harb said following talks with French Ambassador Patrice Paoli at the lawmaker’s Hazmieh residence.

“Our responsibility is to save [the elections] so that the country isn’t left paralyzed, but if we have to postpone for a month, two or three, so be it.”

Zahle MP Elie Marouni, from the Kataeb, said his party and its allies were on the verge of reaching an agreement over a hybrid draft law.

“The Kataeb, its Christian allies and the Future Movement are finalizing an agreement on a draft electoral law that combines proportional representation with a winner-takes-all system and allows Christians to elect more than 50 of their MPs,” Marouni told a local radio station.

Marouni added that although the Kataeb and the Lebanese Forces support the Orthodox Gathering electoral proposal, they are open to the possibility of discussing any law that aims to preserve coexistence.

Marouni said Interior Minister Marwan Charbel’s remarks that it would take time to prepare and to hold parliamentary elections under a new law and introduce voters to the law, indicated that elections would likely be postponed.

President Michel Sleiman told representatives of Lebanese religious communities in the Senegalese capital of Dakar that he feared Parliament would pass an electoral law that deepened sectarian divisions, in reference to the Orthodox proposal.

“[It would be] an electoral law through which we export sectarian divisions to you and ballot boxes for each sect,” he told the religious figures.

Sleiman voiced hope that political groups would soon agree on an electoral law that would allow expatriates to take part in parliamentary elections.

Progressive Socialist party leader Walid Jumblatt said there was still enough time to reach consensus on an electoral law.

“We can work out the difficulties before the end of April and come up with an electoral law that satisfies all groups,” Jumblatt said on TV.

“If there is a group that thinks it can defeat the other side [in an election] using the electoral law, then it is mistaken,” he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 14, 2013, on page 3.




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