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Berri's bloc to vote for Orthodox law in absence of consensus: MP

  • MP Yassin Jaber arrives at the parliament in Beirut, Wednesday, March 21, 2012. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BIERUT: Speaker Nabih Berri’s bloc will vote in favor of the controversial Orthodox Gathering proposal if MPs remain divided on electoral law, MP Yassin Jaber said in remarks published Sunday.

“If no agreement is reached on a new electoral law, then our stance which is known is that we will support the Orthodox Law,” Jabr told An-Nahar. “The most important thing is holding the elections.”

Jaber, who is a member of Berri’s Development and Liberation bloc, said the Orthodox draft law would be the first item to be discussed by the joint committees tasked with studying a new electoral law for the June polls.

The subcommittee which includes lawmakers from the March 8 and the March 14 coalitions failed once again to reach a unified stance on a new electoral law Saturday with the Orthodox proposal receiving the majority of the votes.

The subcommittee, tasked with giving recommendations on the type of voting system and number of districts, was given an additional 15 days in a bid to find common ground among the MPs before the joint committees convene.

Jaber said that Berri sought to give discussions more time “because Lebanon’s highest interest is to have consensus [among political parties] on an electoral law."

The Orthodox proposal, which projects Lebanon as a single district with each sect electing its own MPs, has received the backing of most Christian parties but was staunchly opposed by the Future Movement, President Michel Sleiman and MP Walid Jumblatt.

Opponents of the proposal argue that such a law would reveal the disparity in the number of Christians and Muslims in the country, serving a blow to the principle of partnership. They also claim that its adoption would allow for the rise of extremists and would sharpen the existing sectarian divide.

The Orthodox Gathering proposal is based on proportional representation; a system fiercely opposed by the Future Movement.

“When we see that our main allies in the Free Patriotic Movement along with Bkirki [the seat of the Maronite Church], the Lebanese Forces, the Kataeb Party and the Marada Movement say that they are oppressed in terms of representation, then we cannot go on like this,” Jaber told the local daily.

“What would Lebanon's image be like if the founding sects feel injustice and have fears [for their existence] that are exacerbated by regional events,” he added.

Jaber also noted that adopting the Orthodox proposal would satisfy the needs of Christians but would also marginalize “main political components in the country.”

The MP also said that the lack of consensus over electoral proposal prompted Berri to suggest a hybrid law; a combination of proportionality and a winner-takes-all system.

Future Movement, Kataeb Party, LF, and the Progressive Socialist Party have proposed a law based on a hybrid voting mechanism. Lawmakers, however, have failed to agree on any of them.

Hezbollah’s chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah voiced similar stances Saturday, saying that his MPs would also vote in favor of the Orthodox Gathering not only because it suits their allies’ demands but also the group’s support of proportional representation.

Most of the political parties have rejected a return to the current voting system; the 1960 law that was used in the 2009 elections and is based on the qadaa, majority system.

 
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