BEIRUT: Chouf MP Marwan Hamade said Wednesday he’s optimistic that a new election law will be passed, suggesting a compromise that would deliver both a system of proportional representation and an increase in electoral districts.
Speaking in an interview with The Daily Star, the lawmaker, who was the target of an attempted assassination eight years ago this week, warned the recent attempted assassinations are real and being ordered by the Syrian regime, whose days he said are numbered.
Q: What are the latest developments in the judicial case on the attempt on your life?
A: I was told a few months ago that indictments were being prepared in three cases that were proved to be related to the case of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri: Elias Murr, George Hawi and my case. It was Daniel Bellemare who told me before he handed over the case to the new prosecutor [in March]. Since then, I haven’t heard any further news. We learned that the indictment was delayed because the Special Tribunal for Lebanon is busy preparing an addition to the indictment already issued, to include new names.
The assassination attempts targeting Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea and MP Butros Harb, Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun – when his car was struck by bullets – threats to Progressive Socialist Party Leader Walid Jumblatt and MPs Fouad Siniora, Akram Shehayeb and Ahmad Fatfat, in addition to the conspiracy led by former Information Minister Michel Samaha – all these cases are aimed at sowing division among the Lebanese. I also take seriously the threats against Speaker Nabih Berri, who is a symbol of moderation in the Parliament.
I insist that the Syrian-Iranian alliance is behind all of this and the regime of President Bashar Assad is targeting Lebanon’s stability because it’s under pressure. Assad warned he would bring instability to the region if he was threatened. But whoever is proven to be guilty in my case, I am against capital punishment, which I argued against when I served as minister.
Q: Do you believe an agreement will be reached on a new electoral law?
A: Like everything in Lebanon, the electoral law will be a compromise or else there will be no law and hence there will be no elections.
We are faced with one party’s attempt to dominate the country through a law based on proportional representation – the government’s proposal.
The alternative is the proposal of the Orthodox Gathering which would work for a senate but not for the Parliament. The third alternative is the March 14 Christian parties’ proposal based on majoritarian system, but they took it too far when it comes to electoral districts.
The solution is a compromise adopting a winner-takes-all system and also increasing the number of districts from the 26 in the 1960 law, but fewer than the number called for by the opposition Christian parties.
Q: Do you expect the parliamentary elections to be held on time?
A: If we don’t agree on an electoral law then we will be the ones responsible for any delay. I hope that we can reach an agreement; it’s difficult but I think it will eventually happen.
Other potential reasons behind a delay is a use of force to stop the elections from taking place, and this question should be addressed to whomever has this force, not to us.
There could also be unexpected developments in the region, such as a war, but we should do our best to prevent Lebanon from being dragged into a regional war or a civil conflict. We should not reach a point where we have to extend the mandate of the government or president.
Q: If the March 14 coalition wins the parliamentary elections, will it seek to establish a national unity government?
A: A national unity government cannot be formed if the agenda of a party is to destroy the state. A national consensus could possible with an agreement for a unified state that has monopoly on political and security decisions. If we win the elections and March 8 join us in our project to build a state, then they would be welcomed.
Q: What are your thoughts on President Michel Sleiman’s national defense strategy proposal, and on reports of an alternative proposal that would establish a joint military council with members from the Army and the resistance?
A: I don’t think it’s appropriate to have a defense strategy that gives Hezbollah the right to have its independent military arsenal. We should not reach a state of confrontation with Hezbollah; we want to resolve this issue peacefully when Hezbollah begins to believe that it is in everyone’s interest for the state to have sole control over arms.
As for the talk of a joint council, I don’t think Sleiman wants to do that, nor does he have the authority to establish it; there is only one military council in Lebanon.
Q: What are your thoughts on the media reports of the death of a Hezbollah commander in Syria, and Hezbollah’s support for the regime?
A: Unfortunately this is more proof of Hezbollah’s participation on the ground in battles in Syria. I hope that the incidents being reported are those of individuals motivated to fight rather than a central decision made by Hezbollah. As for the situation in Syria, I am positive that the regime is on the way out. Many foreign parties are talking about alternatives to the regime but I think the only choice is a democratic, pluralistic system that incorporates all Syrians.