BEIRUT: Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri launched a four-point initiative Thursday that called for a small-district law for this year’s polls and the creation of a senate as a means of addressing the Christians’ concerns over representation.
In a wide-ranging interview with LBCI TV at his residence in Paris, Hariri also demanded that the “Baabda Declaration,” which basically called for distancing Lebanon from regional conflicts, be part of the country’s Constitution.
The head of the Future Movement stressed that his top priority was that the parliamentary elections, scheduled in early June, should be held on time.
Hariri, who blasted the Orthodox proposal as a draft that would divide the Lebanese, said he would return to Lebanon before the next elections. “God willing ... I will be in Beirut before the elections. Who else will lead the campaign?” said Hariri, who has been living out of Lebanon for nearly two years for security reasons.
“We propose finding a real solution to the concerns of the Christians. The elections should be held on time on the basis of a small-district law that guarantees true representation for all areas, categories and spiritual communities,” Hariri said.
He called for the establishment of a senate representing all religions and sects in Lebanon as stipulated by the Taif Accord.
“A senate is elected on the basis of the Orthodox Gathering’s draft law ... A senate can ensure real representation of religions and sects. Clearly, Christian concerns can be allayed through a senate,” Hariri said.
“Establishing a senate would take place after amending the Constitution to suspend the condition of abolishing political sectarianism for a limited period of time that will be agreed on,” he said.
“The spiritual families will have, through this senate, a fundamental constitutional task related to the protection of Lebanon’s identity, its role, its message and its coexistence, and the right to veto all decisions that contradict these concepts. This could be achieved upon agreement,” he added.
Hariri called for addressing in all Lebanese regions the chronic complaints which are related to the developmental and administrative obstacles, by immediately adopting the provisions of the Taif Accord regarding expanded administrative decentralization.
Hariri also called for “securing the Constitutional guarantee to the unanimity carried by the Baabda Declaration which stipulated ‘keeping Lebanon away from the policy of axes and regional and international struggles, as well as sparing it all negative repercussions of regional tensions and crises for the sake of Lebanon’s highest interest, its national unity and its civil peace, except what concerns its commitment to international resolutions, Arab consensus and the rightful Palestinian cause.”
“This constitutional guarantee consists of making the ‘Baabda Declaration’ an inseparable part of the preamble of the Constitution, in a way that asserts what was included in the declaration regarding ‘enhancing state institutions, encouraging the culture of resorting to the law and legal institutions to solve any dispute or urgent problem,’ ” he said.
The “Baabda Declaration” was reached by rival March 8 and March 14 leaders during a National Dialogue session in Baabda Palace in June last year.
Hariri said his electoral proposal called for dividing Lebanon into 40 or 50 districts, with two or five MPs for each district, adding that there is also a proposal for 36 districts.
“We are headed for a small-district electoral law ... We will agree to any law that ensures real representation of the Lebanese,” he said.
Hariri’s small-district plan was similar to a draft law presented by the Lebanese Forces and the Kataeb Party that would divide Lebanon into 50 small districts with a winner-takes-all system.
However, the Hezbollah-led March 8 alliance, which supports the Cabinet’s draft law based on a proportional representation system with 13 medium-sized districts, has rejected the 50-small-district proposal.
Hezbollah and the Amal Movement have also supported the Orthodox proposal, which calls for each sect to elect its own MPs under a system of proportional representation with Lebanon as a single district.
During the interview, Hariri slammed the Orthodox proposal, saying it would divide the Lebanese. “The Orthodox Gathering’s law divides Lebanon into 18 religious communities. In each community there is a sect. Where are we heading for?” he said.
“Improving representation cannot be attained by dividing the Lebanese. This [Orthodox] law is called a divide and rule law,” Hariri added.
He said if the Orthodox proposal was adopted for the elections, President Michel Sleiman, the Future Movement, Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt and independent March 14 Christian lawmakers would challenge it in court.
Hariri’s remarks came a day after the joint parliamentary committees gave a new lease on life to a House panel to examine a hybrid electoral law plan that combines proportional representation with a winner-takes-all-system.
If the subcommittee fails again to reach a consensus on an electoral law within the 15-day deadline, the joint committees will begin discussing the Orthodox proposal.
Hariri also came out in support of civil marriage, criticizing the stance of Grand Mufti Sheikh Rashid Qabbani on the issue as “unacceptable.”
“Declaring those supporting civil marriage as infidels is forbidden. This approach and way to discuss civil marriage is unacceptable,” Hariri said.
“Personally, I hope that civil marriage is legalized, but there should be an honest dialogue with regard to this issue.”
“I would not get married civilly or allow my children to do that, but at the end of the day, I represent the Lebanese,” he said.
Hariri said he had “a personal problem” with Hezbollah because the party has refused to hand over four members indicted in the 2005 assassination of his father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah has vowed never to surrender the four suspects to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which is expected to begin trials of the suspects in March.
Hariri said Hezbollah’s arms are the remaining item on the National Dialogue committee’s agenda, urging the resistance group to join talks and resolve the ongoing issue. “I ask Hezbollah to join us on the dialogue table with all seriousness for the sake of the Lebanese state and not for Saad Hariri’s interests,” he said.
Hariri, who has supported the armed rebellion against Syrian President Bashar Assad, said the collapse of the Syrian regime would be a chance for the Lebanese to unite.
Meanwhile, Kataeb leader and former President Amin Gemayel said his party supported a draft electoral law that can ensure a real power sharing between Muslims and Christians.
“We are committed to an [electoral] law that can ensure a real power sharing and a genuine equality between Muslims and Christians according to the Constitution and the Taif Accord,” Gemayel told a news conference at the Foreign Press Center in Paris. Gemayel called the news conference to speak about the results of his talks with French President Francois Mitterrand Wednesday.
“What we are proposing is a law that guarantees real equality. This is attainable in the 50-district draft law in a winner-takes-all system that has been proposed by the Kataeb, in the Orthodox Gathering’s draft law, or in any other proposal,” Gemayel said.