Lebanon News

Mikati says to call for elections June 9

Mikati is unfazed by protests.

BEIRUT: The 2013 parliamentary polls will take place as scheduled on June 9 based on the 1960 law if no alternative is agreed, Prime Minister Najib Mikati told The Daily Star in an interview Monday.

“We will call on the Lebanese electorate to cast their votes to elect a new Parliament on Sunday, June 9, 2013, based on the current [1960] law,” Mikati said. “As long as this government exists, and unless an alternative is found, we will carry out elections on time, in June, based on the existing law.”

Mikati’s announcement is expected to spark the ire of his partners in the government, the March 8 alliance, who argue that the modified version of the 1960 law according to which the 2009 elections were held fails to ensure fair representation.

The leader of a main group in the Cabinet, Progressive Socialist Party chief MP Walid Jumblatt, however, favors the 1960 law, and Mikati’s rivals in the Future Movement of Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri also back the legislation.

Mikati, who reiterated he will run for elections in his hometown of Tripoli, explained that unless a new government is formed or a new electoral law is devised, polls should take place according to “existing resources.”

Responding to calls by the March 14 coalition and more recently Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai for the formation of a new government to oversee next year’s vote, Mikati said only dialogue among various factions could make such a scenario possible.

The March 14 alliance has accused Mikati’s government of complicity with the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad in the Oct. 19 assassination of intelligence chief Wissam al-Hassan and has called for the resignation of the Cabinet and the formation of a neutral salvation government.

Supporters of the anti-Assad coalition have since been camping meters away from Mikati’s residence in Tripoli to press for his resignation.

But Mikati is unfazed by the protests, saying that the March 14’s campaigns fail to serve their purpose.

“Matters should not be dealt with in such a manner,” the prime minister said. “If you want a new government and a new electoral law that ensures fair representation, dialogue and communication are imperative.”

Mikati also urged Hezbollah and other parties who are allegedly involved in the ongoing fighting in Syria to abide by the Lebanese government’s dissociation policy.

“We don’t have any proof that Hezbollah is fighting in Syria,” he said. “But in case they are, I personally call on Hezbollah and other parties to dissociate themselves from events in Syria.”

As for Future bloc MP Oqab Saqr confirming the authenticity of audio recordings implicating him in the transfer of weapons to Syrian rebels, Mikati said the Lebanese government’s dissociation policy with regard to Syria was clear to all, adding that it cannot be held responsible for “individual acts.”

“MP Saqr has admitted a role in arming Syrian rebels and he is operating outside Lebanese territories,” Mikati said. “The Lebanese government cannot force individuals to abide by its policy. We cannot monitor the activities of each and every Lebanese.”

Mikati, who admitted that a spillover of the turmoil in Syria was unavoidable, said the effects could be drastically reduced through unity.

He also described the weekend killing by the Syrian Army of a group of Lebanese fighters who sneaked into Syria through the border region of Tal Kalakh as “very unfortunate.” The majority of the men were members of Salafist cells operating in Tripoli and other regions of north Lebanon.

He said that while his government had no contact with those organizations, he, acting in his capacity as a Tripoli lawmaker, has repeatedly urged Salafist organizations to shun violence. “While I understand their [Salafists] frustrations and concerns, I have repeatedly urged them to pursue a nonviolent path and follow the veritable teachings and principles of Islam.”

Commenting on the growing numbers of Syrian refugees crossing into Lebanon, Mikati said the Lebanese government has asked donor countries and organizations for $178 million to cater to the needs of 200,000 refugees in 2013.

He said the ministries of social affairs, health and education in addition to the Higher Relief Committee have come up with a study detailing the needs of refugees. He added the plan has won the praise of representatives of donor countries who convened at the Grand Serail earlier Monday to discuss aid to Syrian refugees.

“Everyone is aware of Lebanon’s economic woes and the budget deficit,” Mikati said. “So if we are to continue taking in more refugees we need help on various levels.”

Mikati added his government was “brainstorming” ideas that would ensure social justice while not jeopardizing the already suffering state budget in response to the waves of protests in recent weeks by the Union Coordination Committee, a coalition of teachers and public sector employees, calling for the Cabinet to refer a draft law to increase salaries to Parliament.

He also revealed that two Turkish electricity-generating barges, which are expected to partially solve Lebanon’s electricity crisis, will head to Lebanon “in the next weeks.”

“They got delayed because the downpayment hasn’t been disbursed, but now that we transferred the necessary funds they should be docking in the next few weeks,” he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 04, 2012, on page 1.




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