Lebanon News

Ahead of Russia visit, Rai says new vote law needed

Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai gives an address during the enthronement of Syria's Greek Orthodox leader Yuhanna X Yazigi at the Holy Cross church in Damascus on February 10, 2013. AFP PHOTO / LOUAI BESHARA

BEIRUT: Maronite Cardinal Beshara Rai said Tuesday ahead of an official visit to Russia that a new electoral proposal that provides parity between Christians and Muslims in the country is needed for the upcoming elections in light of divisions over the Orthodox Gathering law.

“They spoke about ... the so-called Orthodox proposal, which gives the rights to Christians and Muslims, but then they said it would have negative repercussions. Therefore, we need to find something similar in order for both [Christians and Muslims to have proper representation],” Rai said at Rafik Hariri International Airport, according to the National News Agency.

Parliament’s joint committees endorsed the Orthodox Gathering proposal earlier this month, in a vote boycotted by the Future Movement and the Progressive Socialist Party.

The voting system would see each of the country’s various sects elect their own members of Parliament under a proportional representation system with Lebanon as a single electoral district.

Rai said any new electoral law needed to address what he said was an imbalance of political representation between Muslims and Christians.

“Lebanon is like a bird with one Christian wing, the other Muslim, but it can’t fly with one wing broken, the other strong. These two wings aren’t equal,” he said.

“The electoral law is the best means of restoring balance,” Rai added.

The head of the Maronite Church also expressed hope that politicians would reach a law soon.

“We hope that through good will they will reach an honorable law this week that unites all and we have been promised this,” he said.

Asked whether he still opposed the 1960 law, which was used in the previous polls, Rai said: “This would be shameful if they returned to this bad law after five years [since the previous elections].”

He added that MPs should resign if they failed to find an alternative to the 1960 law.

“If they can’t find an alternative law to the 1960 law then let them all resign,” he said.

“I am still of the conviction that a new, noble law that unites and satisfies all Lebanese is needed,” the Maronite cardinal added.

According to media reports, during his four-day visit to Russia, Rai is expected to meet with the speaker of the Duma, Sergei Naryshkin, and Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia. He will also hold a Mass Wednesday morning at St. Maroun Church and is scheduled to visit Moscow's Cathedral as well as the State Tretyakov Gallery.





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