BEIRUT: Hezbollah supports any electoral law based on proportional representation including the controversial Orthodox Gathering proposal and will vote in favor of the latter should it be put to a vote in Parliament, the party’s leader said Friday.
“For Hezbollah, the main principle in any electoral law is proportional representation, regardless of the results [for the party itself],” Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah said in a televised speech on the occasion of the Prophet’s Birthday.
“This is what appeals to us in any proposed law because it offers everyone, whether parties or sectarian groups, the opportunity to be represented in Parliament,” he said.
In the run-up to Lebanon’s parliamentary elections, lawmakers, both rivals and allies, are at an impasse on what electoral law to adopt for the upcoming polls which are scheduled to be held in early June.
Rival Christian parties, in a rare show of consensus, have backed a controversial draft electoral law that projects Lebanon as a single district in which the country’s different sects vote for their respective lawmakers in Parliament under a proportional representation system.
Despite the consensus among Christian political parties, the Orthodox Gathering draft has drawn heavy criticism from the country’s president and prime minister, the Future Movement, which leads the opposition, and Progressive Socialist Party leader by MP Walid Jumblatt.
The opponents of the proposal argue it is a recipe for entrenching sectarianism in the country.
Nasrallah, whose party has repeatedly called for a law based on proportional representation, said Friday the group’s lawmakers would vote for the Orthodox Proposal in the event it is referred to Parliament.
“We will vote for the Cabinet's draft law ... or the Orthodox Gathering if any of these proposals are referred to Parliament,” the Hezbollah chief said.
President Michel Sleiman and Prime Minister Najib Mikati have thrown their support behind the Cabinet’s draft electoral law, which is based on a system of proportional representation with Lebanon divided into 13 medium-sized districts.
Lebanon’s previous parliamentary elections were administered under the 1960 law – a winner-takes-all, qada-based system that many parties and public figures oppose.
During his speech Friday, Nasrallah also voiced understanding of the concerns of the country’s different sects, particularly Christians, over the subject of the electoral law.
“All the Lebanese sects are monitoring the issue of the electoral law with a [heightened] level of sensitivity given events occurring in the country, concerns and sharp divisions as well as events in the region,” he said.
“The concerns of Christians in Lebanon and in the region are far greater than other groups,” he said, adding that these fear were justified given developments in the region.
Nasrallah also slammed his opponents in the March 14 alliance, namely the Future Movement, saying these groups feared the outcome of the elections under a system of proportional representation.
“The problem of those who reject proportionality is that such an option would reveal their true electoral weight,” he said.
The Hezbollah chief also mocked the Future Movement’s stance of refusing to support proportional representation while the resistance group maintained its arsenal.
“The weapons that you keep mentioning aren’t the [type] used by the resistance but those owned by most Lebanese,” he said.
“You don’t need a Zelzal, Fajr 5 or an Ayoub drone: A simple Kalashnikov can impose electoral options on people and this [type of] weapon is in the hands of most people,” he added.
Nasrallah also argued that a winner-takes-all system afforded greater opportunities to influence election results through the threat of using weapons or cash.
He also fended off accusations that his party was imposing the Orthodox proposal on its allies in the March 8 coalition.
“Some Christian figures and other groups have claimed that the Orthodox law was drafted by Hezbollah or [Syrian President] Bashar Assad ... and that Hezbollah imposed it on [MP] Michel Aoun and [MP Suleiman] Franjieh,” Nasrallah said, referring to the heads of the Free Patriotic Movement and the Marada Movement respectively.
“Our allies actually came to us, explained the situation along with their concerns and we listened and supported them,” he added.
Nasrallah described the upcoming elections as “the foundation of a new phase in the country’s modern history,” and said more ethical discussion on the electoral laws was needed.
“What we need is a technical and respectful debate. Unfortunately, at present the discussions includes offenses and that is why we disassociate ourselves from such a debate which has stooped to such a level,” he said.
Although voicing support for an electoral proposal based on proportional representation, the Hezbollah did not mention his party’s stance on draft law proposed by Speaker Nabih Berri that combines both the majority and proportional representation systems.
Nasrallah, who is Assad’s principal ally in the country, urged his rivals not to allow their predictions on the outcomes of the Syria crisis to influence their stance on the electoral law and said Hezbollah remained open to talks over the electoral law.
“I call on Lebanese to discuss an electoral law based on a proposal that is fair and urge them to forget the idea of what [might] transpire in Syria, particularly those who [expect] the fall of Damascus or any dramatic change in Syria that would allow them to overpower others in Lebanon,” he said.
The March 14 coalition has voiced its moral support for those seeking to topple Assad.
Nasrallah also dismissed the possibility of Assad’s ouster.
“On-the-ground, regional, political and even global facts confirm that events will not result in anything that will achieve the dreams of many,” he said, in an apparent reference to the Lebanese opposition.
“We do not seek to overpower anyone on the basis of what is happening in Syria and neither should you,” Nasrallah added.
Turning to the subject of the performance of the Lebanese government in which the March 8 enjoys a majority, Nasrallah said the Cabinet should not turn away from people’s daily issues, including demands by civil servants for salary raises, the issue of Islamists being detained in Lebanon’s jails, or the issue of Syrian refugees who fled to Lebanon because of unrest in their home country.
“The case of the detained Islamists should be resolved regardless of what we think of them,” he said, referring to some 120 suspects from Fatah al-Islam who have been detained at Lebanon Roumieh prison since 2007.
Commenting on the recent elections in Israel, Hezbollah’s arch enemy, Nasrallah said the vision of the Jewish State would never change regardless of election results.
“Left and right wings are similar and most wars were waged when the left were in government and so the vision, the aggression, and the greed will not change and we should not bet on the [results],” he said.
He reiterated that Lebanon’s only defense against Israel was the tripartite formula of the “Army, people, and resistance.”
Nasrallah said the results of the Israeli elections demonstrated “an absence of leading and founding parties such as the Labor and Likud parties as well as an absence of a single, strong, leading party.”
He argued this observation reflected a crisis in Israel’s leadership.
“This represents a crisis in leadership, in parties and lack of trust but we should not be fooled by that.”
In his one-hour speech, Nasrallah also sought to clarify that crises in many Arab and Muslim countries were not of a sectarian nature but rather were fueled by political goals.
“We should not simply summarize a conflict by giving it a sectarian dimension because it is bigger than that,” he said.
The reasons for most wars in the region, he said, were political rather than sectarian.
“We should not give the conflicts in Lebanon, in Syria or in Egypt ... a sectarian turn because they are political ones,” he said, urging leaders in the region and Lebanon to reduce sectarian rhetoric.
“Any sectarian or confessional rhetoric can destroy everything and what we should do in case of conflicts is attempt to limit the problem and seek dialogue,” he said.
Nasrallah added that dialogue was needed in countries like Syria, Bahrain, Yemen, Egypt and even Iraq in order to resolve the disputes there.