Lebanon News

Christian political leaders in talks on electoral law

Cardinal Beshara Rai, center, heads a meeting attended by MP Michel Aoun, Marada Movement leader Suleiman Franjieh and Kataeb head Amin Gemayel in Bkriki, Friday, Jan. 11, 2013. (The Daily Star/Bkirki, HO)

BEIRUT: Heads and representatives from rival Christian political parties met at Bkirki Thursday to discuss a new electoral law, days after joint parliamentary committees endorsed the controversial Orthodox Gathering proposal.

Free Patriotic Movement chief MP Michel Aoun, Kataeb Party head Amin Gemayel, Marada Movement leader Suleiman Franjieh and Lebanese Forces MP George Adwan took part in the unannounced talks.

FPM MP Alain Aoun and Kataeb MP Samir Saadeh also joined the discussions which began at 5 p.m. and were headed by Maronite Cardinal Beshara Rai.

Meanwhile, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea resumed contacts with his allies in the Future Movement, staunch critics of the Orthodox law, to reach consensus over an electoral law.

According to Geagea’s office, the LF chief phoned MP Fouad Siniora, who heads the Future parliamentary bloc, and discussed the issue over the upcoming elections.

They agreed on the need for “continuing efforts to reach the largest [possible] consensus over an electoral law and to keep lines of communications open to achieve desired goals as soon as possible,” a statement from the LF leader’s office said.

Geagea also phoned later Thursday both Gemayel and Maronite Cardinal Beshara Rai and discussed recent developments with regards to the electoral law.

The parliamentary joint committees approved the controversial Orthodox Gathering Tuesday after Future Movement and Progressive Socialist Party lawmakers withdrew from the session.

The Future Movement, PSP, the country’s president and prime minister, as well as a number of Christian figures, oppose the Orthodox law, which projects Lebanon as a single electoral district wherein each sect elects its own representatives under a system of proportional representation.

The opponents of the law argue it would only strengthen already existing sectarian divisions and allow for the rise of extremists.

The Future Movement’s main Christian allies, however, voted in favor of the law during Tuesday’s parliamentary committees’ session. The Lebanese Forces and the Kataeb claim the law guarantees the best representation for Christians.

Thursday’s contacts came a day after the head of the Future Movement, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, phoned both Gemayel and Geagea for discussions over the matter.

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri has said that he will give rival groups enough time to reach a consensus over the type of voting system before convening Parliament.





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