Lebanon News

Aoun meets Berri, reiterates backing for Orthodox law

FPM leader Michel Aoun speaks during an interview with The Daily Star in Rabieh, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun said Wednesday that the general elections would be held based on the recently endorsed Orthodox Gathering law if politicians fail to reach a consensus on an alternative draft in the time frame set by the house speaker.

“We are going to the elections with the Orthodox Gathering law if we don’t have another law that achieves justice and parity to all sects,” said Aoun following talks with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri.

Lawmakers in joint parliamentary committees approved Tuesday the controversial Orthodox Gathering law, which projects Lebanon as a single district where each sect elected its own representatives in Parliament under a system of proportional representation.

Future Movement and Progressive Socialist Party lawmakers withdrew from the session ahead of the vote in protest.

On Tuesday, Berri and Interior Minister Marwan Charbel issued appeals for rival political factions to reach a consensus on a new electoral law if the elections are to be held on time.

Addressing the feuding parties, Berri said that the 1960 law, the current law, was no more and that there was no other choice than to reach a consensus over a new electoral law to avoid a vote on the Orthodox proposal in Parliament.

“Berri is the decision maker and he is giving enough time for everyone to reach a consensus,” Aoun told reporters after the meeting with Berri.

“But, if we reach a deadlock, he will decide what to do,” said Aoun.

“The electoral proposals presented until now are all the same and they are unacceptable. Berri gave them a week, let’s see if they will offer something new,” he added.

In remarks published earlier Wednesday, PSP leader Walid Jumblatt warned that the Orthodox law that would lead the country to the unknown.

“Approving the Orthodox proposal divides ... the country and leads it to the unknown,” Jumblatt, who spoke to An-Nahar newspaper, said.

Jumblatt described the day of the vote as a “sad” one.

The PSP leader also argued against Berri’s bidding farewell to the current law and said “the 1960 law remains [until this moment].”

The Orthodox law has also caused divisions in the March 14 coalition, mainly between the Future Movement and it Christian allies, the Lebanese Forces and the Kataeb Party.

An-Nahar reported Wednesday that LF leader Samir Geagea and former Prime Minister Saad Hariri held extensive talks over the phone overnight to address the latest developments over the electoral law and to discuss the possibility of reaching a new one that gains consensus.

The PSP leader also warned that the approval of the Orthodox gathering law endangered the country’s Taif Accord, which ended the 1975-90 Civil War.

“The Taif Accord has become threatened by some people’s backward mentality,” said Jumblatt.

“We should adopt a law that abolishes sectarianism and elect a senate on a sectarian basis ... what happened [invalidates] equality and the Taif Accord,” he added.





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