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Geagea: Hariri's absence contributed to rise of extremists
LF leader Samir Geagea speaks during a press conference in Maarab, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012. (The Daily Star/Aldo Ayoub, HO)
LF leader Samir Geagea speaks during a press conference in Maarab, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012. (The Daily Star/Aldo Ayoub, HO)
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BEIRUT: Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea said in remarks published Saturday that former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s absence left a gap in the Sunni community and contributed to the rise of extremist groups in the country.

“Hariri's absence left behind a huge gap particularly in the Sunni community which contributed to the rise of several phenomena in Tripoli, Sidon and other areas,” Geagea told L’Orient Le Jour.

“If he was present in Lebanon, we would have never seen such phenomenon. Therefore, fighting moderate leaderships such as Saad Hariri is similar to directly supporting extremist groups in Lebanon,” he said.

The northern city of Tripoli and the coastal city of Sidon have witnessed the emergence of Salafist groups who have also gained momentum and popularity.

Hariri, the head of the Future Movement, has been out of the country for over a year for security reasons, but has vowed to return to Lebanon when the time is right.

As for the 2013 parliamentary elections, Geagea said the goal of the March 14 coalition lawmakers was to finalize and approve a new electoral law by the end of January as part of the parliamentary committee tasked to do so.

“In the case that the parliamentary committee fails to reach a solution by the end of January, we will ask Speaker Nabih Berri to hold a parliamentary session to vote on the three proposals,” he said.

The committee is scheduled to resume discussion on a new electoral law on Jan. 8 following weeks of boycott by the opposition group.

The Cabinet, March 14 and the Free Patriotic Movement have put forward drafts for a new elections law as most parties reject the 1960 law which was used in 2009 with some amendments.

Geagea reiterated his opposition to the 1960 law, rallying behind his allies’ proposal based on a majority system dividing Lebanon into 50 small districts.

Future Movement and MP Walid Jumblatt have rejected the Cabinet’s draft based on proportional representation with 13 medium-sized districts with the latter insisting on an amended 1960 law.

The Free Patriotic Movement have also presented a proposal similar to the one suggested by the Orthodox Gathering whereby every sect elects its own MPs, under a proportional representation system and with the adoption of Lebanon as a single district.

During his chat with the French local daily, Geagea also accused his rivals in the March 8 alliance of returning to the assassination of March 14 figures for political gains.

“After the other groups dominated the government, recognized that the Syrian regime is on its way to a total collapse and after opinion polls showed March 14 in the lead, this group is back to its old method of assassinations for political gains that prepares them to win the elections,” he said.

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