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Orthodox law a scheme to delay polls: Chamoun

Chamoun said he supports a one-man, one-vote system for June’s elections. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: National Liberal Party leader Dory Chamoun slammed the controversial Orthodox electoral proposal in an interview with The Daily Star Wednesday, saying it amounted to a crime against Lebanon and was a ploy carried out by Hezbollah and its allies to delay the parliamentary elections.

“To me it is a crime against Lebanon; we’ve got one main problem in Lebanon that has existed within our body for a long time: a cancer called confessionalism,” he said from his party’s headquarters in Beirut. “What this law is doing is introducing this cancer further into the Lebanese body, this is a call for the [partition] of the country,” Chamoun added.

The Chouf lawmaker said the Orthodox proposal paves the way for the establishment of a number of mini-sectarian states in Lebanon similar to Israel.

The draft electoral law was approved by the joint parliamentary committees Tuesday. It enables every sect to elect its own MPs under a proportional representation system with all of Lebanon as a single district. The endorsement of Parliament’s general assembly will allow the proposal to become a law prior to the upcoming elections. Rival Christian parties like the Free Patriotic Movement, Kataeb, the Lebanese Forces and the Marada Movement have voiced their support for the proposal and argue it gives fairer representation for Christians by allowing them to elect their share of MPs.

Chamoun explained that if the Orthodox draft law was implemented, it would make it harder for an MP to represent and serve his constituents since voters would be spread across Lebanon.

“I am elected nearly one-third by the Sunnis and Shiites, one-third by the Druze and one-third by the Christians of the Chouf, those two-thirds [of non-Christians] that elected me come very often and ask me for certain services,” he said.

“Who do I serve when I am elected by the Maronites of Zahle, Akkar and Marjayoun?” he asked.

The NLP leader said he supported a one-man, one-vote system which would make Lebanon a single district under a winner-takes-all system.

“This way, the people know who they are voting for and the elected candidate knows who he’s representing,” he said, adding that he favors MPs being elected on a non-confessional basis.

Contrary to most Christian politicians, Chamoun said he doesn’t oppose the adoption of the 1960 law which was used in the 2009 elections.

“It’s much better going back to the 1960 [law] than to have a law which is like the stupid [Orthodox] law which is a preparation for a confessional war or for the division of Lebanon.”

Chamoun accused Hezbollah and other allies of Syria in Lebanon of planning to delay elections by proposing the controversial electoral law because they feel vulnerable given the current “weak” condition of the Syrian regime.

“They are trying to create a situation whereby [Parliament] won’t have the time to make a new law ... they will vote on extending the life of the actual Parliament,” Chamoun added.

Chamoun, 82, ran alongside Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt in the 2009 polls. He said he would join June’s race “in principle.”

Asked whether he would run alongside Jumblatt again, Chamoun said he thought both of them should be cooperating for the sake of the Chouf’s voters.

“We have to remember that this part of Lebanon has had a number of crises for over a century ... since the 1860s,” he said, in reference to a series of clashes between Maronites and Druze in the Chouf region. “We have to work on a way of living whereby we cannot allow such wars to take place again.”

Separately, Chamoun denied claims that his party is having a severe financial crisis.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 21, 2013, on page 4.

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