Lebanon News

Siniora: March 14 will respond positively to Berri’s proposal

Former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. (The Daily Star/ Stringer)

BEIRUT: The March 14 coalition will respond positively to Speaker Nabih Berri’s proposal for resuming discussions on a new electoral law, former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said Sunday, a move that raised hope for an agreement on a draft law under which the 2013 polls would be held.

“The March 14 response to Speaker’s Berri’s proposal will be positive,” Siniora told The Daily Star

However, the former prime minister did not expect the parliamentary subcommittee, which includes MPs from the March 8 and March 14 parties, to meet before the end of the year as Berri had demanded.

“The subcommittee’s meetings will be held early in January as some MPs will be out of the country” for the Christmas and New Year holidays, said Siniora, head of the parliamentary Future bloc.

Formed in early October, the subcommittee was tasked with studying the type of the electoral system and the distribution of electoral districts in the absence of Cabinet members or representatives.

Berri has called on March 8 and March 14 lawmakers to resume discussions on a new electoral legislation before the end of the year, while stressing that elections, scheduled in June next year, be held on time.

The speaker has met with a delegation of March 14 lawmakers to agree on a venue for the subcommittee’s meeting, which has posed a major obstacle after some March 14 MPs, citing threats to their lives, refused to go to Parliament.

Berri has proposed to March 14 lawmaker Marwan Hamade that the subcommittee’s March 14 members facing security threats stay at a hotel near Parliament and under Army protection until the body finishes its work.

The speaker has been waiting for a final answer from the March 14 MPs to his proposal.

Siniora renewed the opposition’s call for the resignation of Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s government and accused the Hezbollah-led March 8 alliance of seeking to prevent the parliamentary elections from being held on time.

“Our position has not changed. We want the government’s resignation first before attending any new National Dialogue session,” he said.

“While we want the elections to be held on time, the other [March 8] side does not want the elections to be held,” Siniora added.

Since the Oct. 19 assassination of Internal Security Forces official Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hasan, the March 14 coalition has demanded the government’s resignation and the formation of “a neutral salvation Cabinet” to supervise the 2013 elections before attending any Dialogue session.

While rejecting the 1960 legislation as well as the government’s draft law based on a proportional representation system with 13 medium-sized electoral districts, Siniora said that the March 14 parties supported an electoral law that divided the country into small districts.

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-takes-all system.

The 1960 legislation was used in the 2009 elections.

Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea called for a new law in order to ensure fair Christian representation.

“Although the 1960 law gives us a big majority in these [2013] elections, we want to change it and approve a law that achieves equality [in power sharing] because the current law is not fair,” Geagea told LBCI TV Sunday.

However, Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt accused both the March 8 and March 14 coalitions of being “destructive” politically and economically for the country.

“The March 14 party is working to tailor an electoral suit according to its size and the March 8 party is doing the same thing as if the country is confined to these two parties. No one thinks that there is also a centrist and marginalized party or a certain minority that wants something else,” Jumblatt said in an interview published by An-Nahar newspaper Sunday.

Jumblatt along with President Michel Sleiman and Mikati have taken a middle-of-the road stance on the political dispute between the March 8 and March 14 parties.

The PSP leader said each of the March 8 and March 14 parties thinks that if they win the parliamentary elections, they will be able to control the country and eliminate the other.

Reiterating his support for Mikati, Jumblatt said: “I am with Prime Minister Mikati in the same boat. We either drown together or survive together.”

Meanwhile, Batroun March 14 MP Butros Harb accused the March 8 parties of seeking to prevent the holding of 2013 elections. Speaking at a news conference at his house in Hazmieh Saturday, Harb said failure to hold the elections would serve Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah, Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun and their allies and ensure their control over the state and its resources.

“We affirm that we are committed to holding the parliamentary elections on time. We announce that we want a new electoral law,” Harb said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 24, 2012, on page 1.




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