Lebanon News

Jokes and jabs punctuate electoral law debate

Some MPs took a break from the session and joked with reporters.

BEIRUT: Light moments found their way into a heated morning session for Parliament’s joint committees Monday, although no progress was achieved in talks.

Some MPs wandered through Parliament’s corridors to take a break from the three-hour-long session, cracking jokes with reporters as MPs inside the hall stated their respective opinions about the controversial Orthodox proposal.

As he delivered his speech in the hall, Baalbek-Hermel MP Emile Rahmeh’s animated voice could be heard from outside.

Speaking to reporters about it afterward, Rahmeh said: “This is my voice when I speak in Arabic, I visited a doctor, but this did not help.”

“When I whisper to my wife, neighbors visit us to see whether we are having a fight,” he joked. Rahmeh is from Hezbollah’s Loyalty to the Resistance parliamentary bloc.

Lebanese Forces MP George Adwan greeted a female reporter from the Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Manar TV station, who was wearing a headscarf, saying a national crisis would break out if he kissed her.

Although Interior Minister Marwan Charbel warned Sunday that it would not be possible to hold elections on time if a draft electoral law was not passed within 10 days, lawmakers expected the talks over the electoral law to take a while.

“There are going to be long discussions; we are still discussing general issues,” Progressive Socialist Party MP Akram Shehayeb said.

MP Qassem Hashem said he was preparing for Monday’s session with MP Ali Bazzi, his colleague in Speaker Nabih Berri’s bloc, when he heard Charbel’s remarks about the 10-day deadline. “I told him let’s stop working then as it seems there are no polls,” he joked.

Some MPs were spotted having chats on the sidelines of the session. Zghorta MP Stephan Doueihy, from Suleiman Franjieh’s Marada Movement, kissed his rival Fadi Karam, a Lebanese Forces lawmaker from Koura.

Marada and the LF have been at odds since June 1978, when an LF squad killed Franjieh’s mother, sister and father.

MPs at the session told The Daily Star the atmosphere was calm, although everyone stood firm on their stance.

MPs from the Future Movement were also present, despite the group having boycotted previous sessions.

Addressing MPs at the beginning of the session, Speaker Berri welcomed the returning Future Movement MPs.

Hezbollah MP Nawaf Musawi also described the atmosphere as “warm,” and expressed his hope that the Future Movement would attend all parliamentary sessions and not be selective in their participation.

Future and PSP MPs slammed the Orthodox proposal as being detrimental for the country, while others from Michel Aoun’s Change and Reform bloc defended it, saying it would preserve the rights of Christians.

The Orthodox proposal enables every sect to elect its own MPs under a proportional representation system, with Lebanon as a single district.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 19, 2013, on page 2.




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