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Maronite bishops call for new electoral law
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BEIRUT: The Council of Maronite Bishops Wednesday urged the adoption of a new electoral law and the formation of a new Cabinet to oversee next year’s parliamentary polls.

In a statement after their monthly meeting in Bkirki, presided over by Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai, the bishops also urged the state to impose security throughout the country following last week’s bloody clashes in Tripoli that left 17 people dead and more than 70 wounded.

The bishops implicitly criticized the March 14 MPs’ boycott of all Cabinet-related meetings in Parliament, saying that it was essential to separate the current political crisis from the work of constitutional institutions, particularly Parliament.

“Lebanon is facing deadlines that require legislation, the most important of which is a new election law ... and the formation of a new Cabinet to supervise the forthcoming elections. None of this can take place without debate in Parliament,” the statement said.

The bishops warned that politicians’ failure to discuss matters in Parliament would heighten tension in the street. The bishops voiced concern over the failure to reach an agreement on a new electoral law, raising speculation that the 2013 polls will be held under the controversial 1960 law.

Officials on both sides of the political divide, including the Maronite Church, have rejected the 1960 law, which adopts the qada as an electoral district and is based on a winner-take-all system. The 1960 law was used in the 2009 parliamentary elections.

Following the assassination of Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hasan, who headed the police’s Information Branch, in a car bomb in Beirut on Oct. 19, the opposition March 14 coalition has boycotted the government and all Cabinet-related meetings in Parliament in a bid to force a government resignation.

However, March 14 lawmakers decided Monday to resume talks with their March 8 rivals on a new electoral law in the absence of government representatives. They also reiterated their boycott of the government and their call for the formation of a new Cabinet to oversee the elections.

In discussing the security situation, assassination threats and the “bloody incidents” in Tripoli, the bishops urged the state to be firm in imposing security throughout the country. They rejected the idea of imposing “security by consent.”

“The bishops remind the political authority that [establishing] security by consent or by negotiation will undermine state authority,” the statement said.

“While highly appreciating the role and sacrifices of the Lebanese Army and all security forces, the bishops appealed to officials to grant them [Army and security forces] a complete political cover so that they can handle the security issue firmly without paying heed to any outlaw party,” the statement added.

The Army implemented a security plan in Tripoli Monday deploying in the rival neighborhoods of Jabal Mohsen and al-Tabbaneh to end six days of fighting between supporters and opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The bishops urged March 8 and March 14 to abide by the Baabda Declaration, which called for distancing Lebanon from regional conflicts, particularly the 20-month-old bloody conflict in Syria.

In Ain al-Tineh, Speaker Nabih Berri, speaking during his weekly meeting with lawmakers, renewed his call for reviving the work of government institutions, namely Parliament, in order to resume discussions on a new electoral law.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 13, 2012, on page 3.
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