BEIRUT: President Michel Sleiman urged Cabinet ministers Thursday to commit to its draft electoral law rather than voice support for other proposals.
“Sleiman asked ministers not to depart from the unanimity reached over the Cabinet's draft electoral law, saying he understood stances by political parties that ministers belong to,” Information Minister Walid Daouk quoted Sleiman as saying during the Cabinet session.
“It is unacceptable for ministers to promote via statements and news conferences draft laws different that the one they voted for in Cabinet without referring to Cabinet first,” Sleiman added.
Ministers from the March 8 alliance have voiced support for the controversial electoral proposal by the Orthodox Gathering while those from MP Walid Jumblatt’s bloc have insisted on the amended 1960 law used in the 2009 polls.
The Orthodox proposal, which has each sect elect its own MPs based on proportional representation, has received support from the majority of Christian parties.
However, Sleiman along with Jumblatt, the Future Movement and some March 14 coalition Christian figures have rejected the proposal, arguing that it would strengthen sectarian divides and allow for the rise of extremists.
During his remarks at the Cabinet session, Sleiman said: “There is no Christian consensus without the consent of the president, particularly when he is not consulted on a certain issue and there are many people as well, not just the president, [who haven’t been consulted].”
"The president can only be blamed if he departs from national consensus [on a certain issue],” he said, responding to some lawmakers who have criticized the president for opposing “Christian consensus” over the Orthodox proposal.
Daouk also quoted Sleiman as saying that it would be shameful for the country to fail to adopt a new electoral law as these elections are the first without “tutelage.”
In order to facilitate the work of the joint committee studying a new electoral law, Sleiman said he signed a decree to open extraordinary parliamentary sessions to facilitate the adoption of a new electoral law, approve the state budget referred to Parliament and resolve any other issue that the Parliament's secretariat wants discussed.
Regarding the Syrian refugee crisis, the president said he will also personally attend a donor conference in Kuwait that is especially dedicated to the growing number of Syrian refugees.
More than 200,000 Syrians have sought refuge in Lebanon since the outbreak of violence in Syria in March 2011.
Sleiman and Prime Minister Najib Mikati met separately prior to the session at Baabda Palace which coincided with a protest by Lebanese University contract teachers asking the government to employ them full time.
The Cabinet approved Thursday an estimated $400,000 that the Interior Ministry has sought for preparations for the upcoming parliamentary elections scheduled in early June.