BEIRUT: Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah voiced support Friday for any electoral law based on a proportional representation system, saying that the party would vote for the controversial Orthodox proposal should it be referred to Parliament.
“The basic principle for which we aspire in any election law is proportional representation regardless of our popularity,” Nasrallah said in a televised speech on the occasion of Prophet Mohammad’s birthday.
“We accept Lebanon as a single electoral district based on proportional representation. We accept Lebanon [divided] into governorates based on proportional representation. We accept the government’s draft law sent to Parliament,” he said, adding: “We accept Orthodox Gathering’s proposal. But for us, the attractive side of these proposals is the adoption of proportional representation.”
Nasrallah said proportional representation ensured just representation.
“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.
Speaking through a giant screen via a video link to a crowd of Hezbollah’s supporters at a complex in Beirut’s southern suburbs, Nasrallah said the 22-month-old conflict in Syria and the turmoil in other Arab countries justified the Christians’ concerns.
“The Christians have concerns today. I think it is clear that some are asking whether Hezbollah and the Amal [Movement] will vote for the Orthodox proposal,” Nasrallah said.
“We confirm that we will vote for what we have agreed on. If Parliament meets tomorrow to discuss electoral draft laws, we will vote for the Cabinet’s draft law if it is put up [for a vote]. If the Orthodox proposal is put up [for a vote], we will vote for it. We are honest in this issue,” he added.
Nasrallah’s remarks are likely to add further confusion to the Orthodox Gathering’s electoral proposal, which has triggered a heated nationwide debate ahead of the the parliamentary polls, scheduled in early June.
The Orthodox draft law, which calls for each sect to elect its own lawmakers under a system of proportional representation with Lebanon as a single district, has drawn fire from many major political parties, including President Michel Sleiman, the Future Movement, Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt and several independent March 14 Christian lawmakers, who warned that the draft would deepen sectarian divisions and lead to the rise of extremists.
Sleiman has vowed to challenge the Orthodox proposal in court if it is enacted by Parliament.
In sharp contrast with the political storm it has caused across the country, the Orthodox proposal has brought the rival Maronite parties together in a rare show of political unity. The leaders of the Kataeb Party, the Lebanese Forces, MP Michel Aoun of the Free Patriotic Movement, and Zghorta MP Suleiman Franjieh’s Marada Movement have fully supported the Orthodox draft, arguing it is the best formula to guarantee true representation of the Christians.
Hezbollah and Amal, allied with the FMP, have supported the Orthodox proposal during the meetings of a parliamentary subcommittee tasked with exploring a new electoral law.
“The Christians consider that this [Orthodox] proposal might lead to what they call a real power sharing [between Muslims and Christians] and true representation,” Nasrallah said, adding: “As Muslims, let’s give them this chance and go to a Parliament and elections in which no one will feel that he is taking less [seats] than his popularity.”
Nasrallah indirectly called on March 14 parties not to wager on regime change in Syria, saying that battlefield, political and international developments concerning the conflict were not favorable for many “to make their dreams come true on certain matters.”
“I call on the Lebanese to discuss an election law on the basis that it is fair and just. Stop waiting for what is happening in Syria, especially those who expected a dramatic change and Damascus to fall,” he said.
The opposition March 14 coalition, including the Future Movement, and Jumblatt, have rejected the Cabinet’s draft law based on a proportional representation system with 13 medium-sized districts.
The Future Movement of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri has staunchly rejected any proportional representation system under the shadow of Hezbollah’s arms. But Nasrallah 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.”
Nasrallah also scoffed at the Future Movement’s stance of refusing to support proportional representation while the 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.
Nasrallah rejected the argument that Hezbollah’s arms could influence the results of elections. Instead, the Hezbollah chief warned of the use of money to buy votes in the elections. He quoted an unnamed senior official, a supporter of the March 14 coalition, as saying that he had paid $3 billion in the 2009 elections.
Nasrallah’s remarks came after the parliamentary subcommittee, made up of March 8 and March 14 MPs, failed after more than two weeks of deliberations to agree on a law to govern the elections. The Orthodox proposal has won a majority of votes among the subcommittee’s nine members.
In addition to the Cabinet’s draft law, the Orthodox proposal, and a draft law that would divide Lebanon into 50 small districts, the subcommittee has also examined a hybrid plan from Speaker Nabih Berri that combines proportional representation with a winner-takes-all system. The subcommittee will meet Tuesday to approve a report on the results of its discussions.
Jumblatt left for Paris Friday for talks with French officials, including President Francois Hollande, on the Lebanese crisis and repercussions of the 22-month-old turmoil in Syria.