BEIRUT

Lebanon News

Berri denies report, says polls to be held on time

This file photo shows Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri at his summer house in Msaileh. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)

BEIRUT: Speaker Nabih Berri denied Saturday a report quoting him as saying that the upcoming election of 2013 would be put on hold should politicians fail to agree on a new electoral law, adding that next year’s elections would be held on time.

In remarks to An-Nahar newspaper Saturday, Berri was quoted as saying that in the event parties failed to agree on a new electoral law to govern the upcoming polls, “the elections will not held."

In a statement later Saturday, Berri described the An-Nahar report as "inaccurate," saying that in fact he had stated the opposite.

Berri along with the Maronite Church and the March 8 coalition have repeatedly voiced opposition to a return to the 1960s law used in the 2009 polls which is based on the Qada system.

“The church's opposition to the 1960s law will not be ignored,” the speaker told An-Nahar.

He added that he was looking into an electoral law that best meets the demands of all parties “by studying all electoral proposals.”

Joint parliamentary committees are studying several draft electoral laws including the Cabinet’s proposal which divides Lebanon into 13 medium-sized districts based on proportional representation as well as the March 14’s proposal which is based on a winner-takes-all system with 51 constituencies.

The Free Patriotic Movement has also proposed an electoral law that allows every sect to elect their own representatives using under a proportional representation system.

Each of the proposed laws has been met with opposition. The Future Movement and MP Walid Jumblatt’s Progressive Socialist Party have outright rejected proportional representation while the March 8 alliance, including Hezbollah, have rallied against their rivals’ distribution of small districts, saying it would alienate the Shiite voter.

Berri is looking into an alternative law in the framework of a proposal prepared by a committee headed by former Minister Fouad Butros which combines proportionality and a winner-takes-all system.

In his interview with the local daily, Berri also said that any law that benefits one party at the expense of another would be rejected.

He also said that the government would remain in power until after any future elections were held.

“This government is a must and when some spoke about the need for a new government to oversee the elections, I told them that this government is staying until after the elections and I repeat that today,” Berri said.

The head of the Future Movement Parliamentary bloc MP Fouad Siniora has stressed on the need for a national unity government to oversee the upcoming elections, citing concerns of Hezbollah’s weapons being used as a means to influence the polls.

 

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