BEIRUT

Lebanon News

LF and FPM trade barbs over election law

BEIRUT: The Lebanese Forces and the Free Patriotic Movement traded accusations Tuesday on the contents of an agreement reached by a committee made up of the country’s Christian parties on the preferred draft election law.

LF leader Samir Geagea said the FPM was trying to back out of the Bkirki committee’s agreement to give priority to a draft law that divides Lebanon into small districts under a winner-takes-all system.

FPM leader Michel Aoun maintained that the committee, which met under the patronage of Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai, selected two draft laws. The first, which was proposed by the Orthodox Gathering, allows each sect to elect its own MPs by proportional representation. In the second, Lebanon would be divided into medium-sized districts based on proportional representation.

Aoun expressed surprise that his rival Christian parties had rejected these two options, reneging on the committee’s agreement.

Speaking to the Central News Agency Tuesday, Geagea said that during a Monday meeting between members of the Bkirki committee and Rai, FPM representative MP Alain Aoun tried to back away from priorities that had been set by the committee over the past six months.

“The [priority] was for the draft law with small districts. If this did not receive enough support [with other Lebanese parties], then [the agreement was to focus on] the draft law based on proportional representation [with medium-size districts], which is totally different than the ‘Hezbollah draft law’ approved by the Cabinet,” Geagea told the Central News Agency.

Last month the Cabinet approved a draft law that would divide the country into 13 medium-sized districts with MPs chosen by proportional representation. Geagea and other March 14 allies spoke out against the draft law, saying it was designed to serve the interests of Hezbollah.

Addressing a news conference last week, Geagea said he would work to garner support for the draft law that divides Lebanon into 61 small districts based on a winner-takes-all system. He argued that this law would result in fair representation for Christians.

“Unfortunately, the Free Patriotic Movement tried to go back to square one [during the Monday meeting].”

MTV reported Tuesday that a heated argument broke out during the meeting, with Aoun pitted against LF MP George Adwan, Kataeb (Phalange) MP Sami Gemayel and MP Butros Harb.

The TV station said Adwan, Harb and Gemayel criticized Aoun’s objection to the small district proposal, saying that the members of the Bkirki committee had already decided to give the draft precedence.

Aoun called Gemayel a liar when the latter tried to explain the advantages of the draft law, MTV reported, adding that the argument took place in Rai’s presence.

Speaking to The Daily Star, Aoun said that “discussion took place during the meeting.”

“They tried to distort facts in the presence of the patriarch which forced us to confront them,” he said, adding that Geagea’s comments to the CNA had misrepresented the facts about both the committee’s work and Monday’s meeting.

“There is distortion as to what happened inside the committee and what actually happened yesterday [Monday] in the presence of the patriarch.”

Aoun is set to respond to Geagea’s remarks in a Wednesday news conference in Parliament.

In his remarks to the CNA, Geagea expressed surprise that FPM MPs forwarded a draft election law to Parliament Monday in which each sect would choose its own MPs, turning the country into a single district. “How could they forward this law at a time when the Free Patriotic Movement’s 10 ministers voted for the draft election law [already] approved by the Cabinet, and when the two draft laws are totally different?”

In response, Alain Aoun said the FPM had “forwarded more than one draft law and this is part of what we agreed upon in the Bkirki committee.”

For his part, Michel Aoun described comments made by the March 14 coalition about the Bkirki committee’s decisions as “lies.”

“To put an end to these lies, I will read to you some of what was mentioned in the final statement of the large-scale meeting held in Bkirki,” Aoun told reporters at his Rabieh residence Tuesday.

“The draft law proposed by the Orthodox Gathering is the best one in terms of achieving true parity in Parliament ... and the draft law [dividing Lebanon] into medium-sized districts based on proportional representation provides an acceptable level of fair representation,” Aoun quoted the statement as saying.

“They [March 14 coalition] said they don’t want the second proposal, so we went back to the first one [Orthodox Gathering proposal] which they also said they don’t want,” said Aoun. “I don’t know what they do want.”

Separately, former Deputy Speaker Elie Firzli said Monday that Marada Movement leader Suleiman Franjieh and Aoun would work to convince their allies to back the Orthodox Gathering’s proposal.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 12, 2012, on page 3.

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