Lebanon News

Jumblatt bloc to register for polls, March 14 mixed over move

Druze leader Walid Jumblatt leaves the Parliament in Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, Feb. 23, 2012. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)

BEIRUT: The Progressive Socialist Party will submit this week the names of its candidates for June’s parliamentary elections, an official in the party said Monday, in a move that recieved mixed support from the March 14 coalition.

“Lawmakers in the party will file their nominations this week because they insist that the elections must be held on time,” PSP Secretary-General Zafer Naser told The Daily Star, adding that six PSP members including Jumblatt, had completed and signed their candidacy applications.

The decision by the PSP comes a day after President Michel Sleiman warned the country’s political leaders that he was opposed to extending Parliament’s term due to the lack of an agreement on a new electoral law.

In early March, the Interior Ministry opened its doors to those seeking to register as candidates for the 2013 elections. The deadline for submitting candidacy applications is April 10 while those seeking to withdraw their candidacy have until April 25.

Naser said party members, who are planning on running in the upcoming elections, would file their applications before the constitutional deadline.

With less than nine days before the deadline, many in the March 14 alliance said they were either against submitting the names of its candidates or still undecided.

Minieh MP Ahmad Fatfat said that the Future Movement would only file nominations after an agreement has been reached on a new voting system to govern the elections due in early June.

“The Future Movement has taken a decision not to submit its nominations before a decision is taken by the March 14 coalition and an agreement is reached on a new electoral law,” Fatfat said in an interview to the Voice of Lebanon radio station.

But Batroun MP Butros Harb told The Daily Star that a political vacuum in the country caused by not holding elections on time would be worse than holding the polls on the basis on the current law.

While many of Harb’s allies have openly rejected holding elections based on the current 1960 law, the Batroun MP hinted that he might submit his nomination before April 10.

“If we are to choose between a bad electoral law and a complete political vacuum, we would rather choose a bad electoral law,” Harb said.

However, he said that while all interested candidates have the right to file their nominations for the June elections, more time was needed in order to make a final decision on the issue.

“We are holding consultations on the issue and how to confront this dangerous period in Lebanon because there seems to be a plot against the democratic political system,” He said.

Harb claimed that the dispute over the country’s electoral law had become a tool for political intimidation instead of reform, arguing that politicians who do not submit their nominations before the April 10 deadline would be accepting a political vacuum.

“Although we want to amend this law and make it more representative, we don’t want to have a political vacuum in the country,” Harb said.

Separately, officials from the Lebanese Forces also ruled out submitting candidacies before April 10, arguing that the party’s decision is in line with its rejection to the existing electoral law.

“We are committed to holding elections on time, but we cannot accept the ‘1960 Law’ because it does not allow fair Christian representation in Parliament,” Bsharre MP Elie Keyrouz said.

“Just like others in the country want a just electoral law that will ensure good representation, we want a just law that will enhance Christian representation,” he added.

“Our decision is clear, we will not submit any nomination before the deadline,” Keyrouz stressed, adding that efforts should be placed on approving the hybrid law that allows the election of lawmakers on the basis of a winner-takes-all and proportional representation system.

Similarly, the Kataeb Party opposed filing nominations for candidates who want to run for elections under the current law.

“If anyone applies, he would be approving the existing 1960 law,” a political adviser to the party told The Daily Star in a telephone conversation.

“Everyone knows that it doesn’t matter whether you submit your nomination or not because we will not be able to hold elections on time,” added the official, who spoke on a condition of anonymity.

The official also said that neither Jumblatt nor the Future Movement were promoting the approval of a new electoral law.

He added that the failure to reach a deal on a new electoral law would not pressure party members to file their nominations.

“Jumblatt has clearly come out in support of the 1960 law and the Future Movement is appeasing him,” he said.

“If they force us to choose between this existing law and the Orthodox Gathering proposal, we will definitely choose the Orthodox Gathering law,” the official added.





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