BEIRUT: President Michel Sleiman has pledged to reject any bid to renew his six-year-term in office when it expires in 2014. Speaking in a recorded interview with NBN TV broadcast Wednesday night, Sleiman added he was working to reach agreement on a new election law that reflected plurality in Lebanon.
Asked whether he would accept a renewal of his mandate if it was difficult for some reason to elect a new president in 2014, Sleiman said: “Definitely, I will not accept an extension of my term for one or two years. The Lebanese Constitution has found a solution for this issue – the Cabinet will take over the president’s powers.”
The interview was conducted in Argentina last week during Sleiman’s tour of Latin America.
Sleiman reiterated his support for the government’s approved draft electoral law, which would divide Lebanon into 13 medium-sized districts based on a system of proportional representation.
The government’s draft law has been rejected outright by the opposition March 14 coalition, which argues that it is designed to serve the interests of Hezbollah and its March 8 allies.
“My stance is to support the proportionality law,” Sleiman said. “However, Parliament, which is the master of its own decision, will decide on a new election law.”
He added that once a new law has been approved by Parliament, he will refer it to the Constitutional Council to decide on whether it is constitutional.
Sleiman’s remarks came amid deep divisions between the March 14 coalition and the Hezbollah-led March 8 bloc over which legislation best guarantees fair representation for all parties in the 2013 elections.
MPs from the joint parliamentary committees have so far failed to bridge the gap between the rival factions.
The committees are also discussing a proposal presented by the March 14 Christian parties that would divide Lebanon into 50 small districts under a winner-takes-all-system.
Another forwarded draft law is that of MP Michel Aoun’s Change and Reform parliamentary bloc, whereby every sect elects its own MPs.
Meanwhile, Speaker Nabih Berri was quoted as saying that some politicians were seeking to delay the adoption of a new election law.
During his weekly meeting with lawmakers at his residence in Ain al-Tineh, MPs quoted Berri as saying: “Contacts are ongoing to address the issue of an election law.”
For his part, Prime Minister Najib Mikati said “serious efforts” were under way to propose a law based on a draft prepared by a committee headed by former Minister Fouad Butros, which combines proportionality and a winner-takes-all system.
“We must search for alternatives that ensure a true representation and address the Christians’ concerns,” Mikati said.