BEIRUT: President Michel Sleiman reiterated Tuesday his call for adopting an electoral draft law endorsed by the Cabinet for the upcoming 2013 elections, including amendments if need be, amid political differences in the country on what electoral system to use in the June polls.
“As long as we are adamant on holding the polls in light of the draft law endorsed by the Cabinet that is based on proportional representation then we should start discussing this law and possibly include amendments if need be,” He said, addressing the country’s Arab and foreign diplomatic corps.
In August, the government approved an electoral draft law that divides the country into 13 districts under a system of proportional representation.
However, the Cabinet’s proposal is one of several under discussion by rival lawmakers.
The head of the subcommittee discussing a new electoral law, MP Robert Ghanem, will later in the day hand Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri the minutes to several days of deliberations which were marked by political differences over which legislation best guarantees fair representation for all sects in Lebanon.
In his annual speech to the country’s foreign diplomatic corps at the Presidential Palace, the president also stressed the importance of committing to the “Baabda declaration” to safeguard against the developments in the region.
“Despite some parties plunging into violence over the situation in Syria, members of the National Dialogue were able to agree on keeping Lebanon away from regional crises,” he said, hinting at last year’s recurrent clashes in north Lebanon between supporters and opponents of the Syrian regime.
The “Baabda Declaration,” a pact between rival political leaders in the March 8 and March coalitions arrived at in mid-2012, calls for neutralizing Lebanon from regional conflicts and rejecting the creation of buffer zones and the flow of gunmen and arms from Lebanon to Syria.
Sleiman also reiterated his commitment to National Dialogue and said he would keep on trying to bring all leaders together to resume the all-party-talks.
“Efforts will be exerted to call for National Dialogue,” said Sleiman.
Sleiman has repeatedly called for the resumption of the multiparty talks in the face of a boycott by the country’s opposition.
The March 14 alliance insists that the government resign and a neutral salvation cabinet take over to oversee the upcoming elections. The move was prompted by the October assassination of police Information Branch head Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hasan in an car bombing in a suburb of the capital.
Sleiman told the diplomats that the country was still feeling the negative effects of Hasan’s killing.
“The status quo is that the Lebanese are still living the repercussions of Hasan's murder and are afraid of the consequences of the Syrian conflict,” he said.
“Hasan’s killing raised concerns and caused confusion in the country,” he added.
During his 2012 address to the diplomatic corps, Sleiman vowed to work for the resumption of all-party talks to discuss Hezbollah’s weapons.
He also urged that its neighbor Syria seek an end to its internal crisis and said developments in the region should not detract from the Palestinian cause.
Prior to Sleiman’s address Tuesday, the Vtican's ambassador to Lebanon, Bishop Gabriel Caccia, praised the “Baabda Declaration,” saying the agreement had managed to preserve the country's independence under Sleiman.
Addressing members of the diplomatic corps in Lebanon, Caccia said it was important to revive democratic institutions and hold on time the elections, which he described as the principal factor for a sound, democratic life in Lebanon.
Caccia praised Sleiman for sponsoring the Baabda Declaration, which he said reflected the country’s independence in dealing with challenges facing the country and region.
He also said that last year’s visit by Pope Benedict XVI and U.N. Chief Ban Ki-moon reflected the positive diplomatic ties between Lebanon and the world.