Lebanon News

Hezbollah, FPM shoot down Hariri vote plan

MPs Alain Aoun, left, Ibrahim Kanaan and Sami Gemayel share a joke during the parliamentary session. (The Daily Star)

BEIRUT: Hezbollah and its ally, the Free Patriotic Movement, rejected Friday former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s four-point initiative to end the monthslong deadlock over an electoral law, while reiterating their support for the controversial Orthodox proposal.

“Hezbollah’s position on an electoral law is known: We support proportional representation and the Orthodox Gathering’s draft electoral law. We reject the small-district proposal,” a Hezbollah official told The Daily Star.

The FPM’s Ibrahim Kanaan, a Metn MP, dismissed Hariri’s initiative, saying it offered nothing new and was aimed at rejecting 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.

“What Hariri announced yesterday [Thursday] was not an initiative, but general principles that did not hold anything new,” Kanaan told the Kataeb-run Voice of Lebanon radio station.

“Hariri’s talk about small districts is just a general principle ... The talk about small districts was [designed] to reject the Orthodox Gathering’s proposal,” he said.

Hezbollah’s Agriculture Minister Hussein Hajj Hasan said when Nasrallah announced last week that the party supported the Orthodox proposal, “no Christian, especially our allies, must have any doubt about this.”

“We are keen on the broadest understanding in Lebanon over a consensual election law that represents all the people and is fair to everyone. We are keen on the country’s stability,” Hajj Hasan told the Voice of Lebanon radio station.

In an interview with LBCI TV Thursday night at his residence in Paris, Hariri unveiled his initiative that called for a small-district law for this year’s parliamentary polls and the creation of a Senate as a means of allaying the Christians’ concerns over representation.

Hariri demanded that the “Baabda Declaration,” which called for distancing Lebanon from regional conflicts, be part of the country’s Constitution.

The head of the Future Movement also blasted the Orthodox proposal as a regressive draft that would only divide the Lebanese by insisting individual sects vote for their respective lawmakers. Responding to Hariri, Kanaan said: “The Future Movement is required to adopt a historic and extraordinary stance by seriously helping in the implementation of real power sharing instead of boycotting Parliament. We consider that this can be achieved through the Orthodox proposal.”

A member of a parliamentary subcommittee tasked with exploring a new vote law said Hariri’s initiative would “close the door to a consensus on a vote system.”

“The subcommittee has already rejected a proposal for 50 electoral districts,” the member, who belongs to the March 8 coalition, told The Daily Star, referring to the proposal presented by the Lebanese Forces and the Kataeb Party that would divide Lebanon into 50 small districts with a winner-takes-all system.

He said Hariri’s small-district proposal would not be discussed when the subcommittee resumes its deliberations Monday on a hybrid electoral law plan that combines proportional representation with a winner-takes-all system.

But Hariri’s initiative won praise from opposition March 14 coalition’s MPs. Batroun MP Butros Harb described Hariri’s initiative as “bold,” voicing hope that it would not be derailed by the March 8 camp.

“Hariri’s well-developed proposal demonstrates his willpower and courage – something that we can bet on ... to change the society from a close-minded sectarian mentality to a state of national openness and a secular and civic state,” Harb said in a statement.

“I congratulate Hariri for his daring and bold stance ... I hope it won’t be stoned [to death] because it was launched by Saad Hariri or because it does not serve the interests of certain groups that put personal interests above Lebanon’s interest,” he added.

Kataeb MP Nadim Gemayel lauded Hariri, saying the Future Movement leader’s small-district proposal was fairly similar to that of the March 14 coalition. “Administrative decentralization is our main objective. Small districts also secure a true Christian representation,” Gemayel told a local TV.

MP Robert Ghanem, the chairman of the parliamentary subcommittee struggling to reach an agreement on a united voting system, told LBCI TV Hariri’s proposal deserved consideration, “particularly since we are heading toward a national crisis that requires a radical solution.”

Chouf March 14 MP Marwan Hamade also praised Hariri’s initiative, stressing the need for the elections to be held on time. “Hariri’s proposal transcends the 50 districts to include in his initiative a set of ideas of the March 8 parties,” he told the Voice of Lebanon radio station.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 02, 2013, on page 1.




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