BEIRUT: Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said in remarks published Monday that he has a plan on how to deal with the electoral law in the event rival lawmakers failed to reach agreement.
"I will carefully study the content of the minutes of the subcommittee meetings mulling an electoral law and if I find common ground that we can build on in order to reach consensus then I will extend the meetings,” Berri said in remarks published Monday by the An-Nahar daily.
But if the rival March 8 and March 14 coalitions fail to reach common ground, Berri said “I know what to do and how to act.”
He would not give details.
A controversial Orthodox electoral law proposal has stirred a political storm in the country, and even caused a split within the opposition March 14 coalition.
Former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said Sunday he plans to meet Berri soon to explore a new electoral law in an apparent attempt to break the current deadlock over which legislation best guarantees fair representation for all sects in this year’s crucial parliamentary elections.
Meanwhile, the local newspaper Al-Joumhouria quoted Monday Bkirki visitors as saying that Maronite Cardinal Beshara Rai backs the Orthodox proposal but prefers not to be open about it.
“Cardinal Rai supports the Orthodox proposal, but he prefers not to call a spade a spade to keep the doors open and give President Michel Sleiman a chance to find common ground on the electoral law without harming political parity for Christians," one visitor said.
He quoted Rai as saying that Bkirki’s credibility hangs in the balance.
“I cannot call the Maronite parliamentary committee to meet and agree in my presence on the Orthodox Gathering [proposal] then call the four Maronite leaders to meet and agree in my presence on the Orthodox [proposal] then disavow [having agreed to it],” Rai reportedly said.
“This is out of the question for Bkirki, especially since no one has come forward with another law that offers Christians what the Orthodox proposal offers," the visitor quoted Rai as saying.
Al-Joumhouria said Rai, in coordination with Sleiman, would get in touch with non-Christian politicians in order to persuade them to go along with the Orthodox proposal “so that Christians won’t feel that one group of Muslims back the proposal while another has reservations.”
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Najib Mikati lashed out at Energy Minister Gebran Bassil for his recent criticism of Sleiman.
Bassil on Sunday held Sleiman responsible in the event he “torpedoes a consensus seldom achieved by Christians on a structural issue of this magnitude.”
Sleiman has threatened not to fight the Orthodox Gathering proposal should parliamentarians vote it into law. The president argues the proposal goes against the country’s Constitution.
Mikati, speaking to An-Nahar, said the president’s actions all stemmed from his commitment to what was best for the country.
“Making such a stance against Sleiman is not acceptable since the president acts from a sense of patriotism that stems from his commitment to national interest, unity of the Lebanese and concerns over Christians and about their future,” Mikati told the local newspaper.