BEIRUT: The Future bloc will not attend this week’s meeting of the joint parliamentary committees on a new vote law in line with its boycott of the government, former Prime Minister Foaud Siniora said Sunday, casting gloom over the outcome of the lawmakers’ talks.
Siniora also said the Future Movement would unveil this week a comprehensive draft electoral law designed to address the Christians’ concerns, in the latest attempt to break the deadlock over which proposal best guarantees fair representation for all sects.
“The Future bloc will participate in the joint committees’ meetings if Cabinet representatives do not attend. But if Cabinet ministers attend, the Future bloc will not participate,” Siniora told The Daily Star.
“This stance is in line with the bloc’s boycott of the government.”
Prime Minister Najib Mikati confirmed that the Interior, Justice and Finance ministers would attend the joint committees’ meeting scheduled for Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters after an hour-long meeting with Speaker Nabih Berri at Ain al-Tineh Sunday night to discuss the deadlock over a new electoral law, Mikati said: “The Cabinet has been invited [for the committees’ meeting] and the relevant ministers will attend.”
Berri has called the parliamentary Justice, Administration, Finance and Budget, Foreign Affairs, Defense, Interior and Municipalities Committees for a joint meeting Wednesday to discuss a new electoral law. Berri’s move came after a parliamentary subcommittee, made up of March 8 and March 14 MPs, failed in several rounds of talks to reach an agreement on a united vote system. However, six of the subcommittee’s nine members have supported the Orthodox Gathering’s proposal.
The opposition March 14 coalition has boycotted the government and all Cabinet-related meetings and called for the formation of a neutral Cabinet to oversee the elections following the assassination of Brig. Gen. Wissam alHasan, the police intelligence chief, in a car bomb in Beirut’s district of Ashrafieh on Oct. 19.
However, Lebanese Forces MP George Adwan, broke ranks with the March 14 coalition, saying his party would attend the joint committees’ meeting even if Cabinet ministers showed up.
“The LF will participate in the committees’ meeting,” Adwan told MTV Sunday night. In a clear reference to the Orthodox proposal, he said: “There is a draft law that has gained majority [support].”
In addition to the Orthodox Gathering’s proposal and the Cabinet’s proportional representation draft law, the joint parliamentary committees, which include MPs from the March 8 and March 14 parties, are expected to mull over Berri’s hybrid vote plan that combines proportional representation with a winner-takes-all system. The MPs will also discuss a draft law presented by the Lebanese Forces and the Kataeb Party that would divide Lebanon into 50 small districts.
Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, the head of the Future Movement, was due to visit Paris this week for an interview with LBCI TV Thursday ahead of the eighth anniversary of the assassination of his father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, on Feb. 14.
It was not immediately clear whether Hariri would meet with former President Amin Gemayel, head of the Kataeb Party, and Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt, who are in Paris for scheduled meetings with French President Francois Hollande.
Siniora reiterated the Future bloc’s rejection of the Orthodox electoral proposal and the Cabinet’s draft law based on a proportional representation system with 13 medium-sized districts.
His remarks appeared to be in response to Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah, who has voiced his support for any electoral law based on a proportional representation system and said that the party would vote for the Orthodox proposal should it be referred to Parliament.
“We, in the Future Movement, will, God willing, put forward in the next few days a comprehensive proposal in order to address the concerns voiced by the Christians and about which Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah spoke when he said that there are [Christian] fears resulting from the ongoing developments in the Arab region and that this would lead to increasing extremism in the region,” Siniora told reporters at his office in Hilaliyeh, a neighborhood in the southern city of Sidon. “We did not support the so-called Orthodox Gathering’s proposal or proportional representation. We think that the majority system is still valid,” the Sidon MP said. “Therefore, as I have said, we will present a comprehensive proposal that addresses the concerns and fears of some Lebanese in such a way to preserve our coexistence and preserve moderation among all the parties, without resorting to means that further increases extremism and divisions among the Lebanese.”
Siniora refused to give details of the Future bloc’s draft electoral proposal, saying the proposal would be unveiled in the next few days.
However, he warned that the Orthodox proposal, which calls for each sect to elect its own lawmakers under a system of proportional representation with Lebanon as a single district, would lead to the country’s fragmentation and ran contrary to the idea of sectarian coexistence, the Taif Accord and the Constitution.
Siniora said it was impossible to adopt proportional representation in this year’s parliamentary elections, scheduled in early June, while Hezbollah maintained its arsenal.
“Proportionality is a noble and good idea but with the presence of Hezbollah’s arms as a major factor in the internal situation, it is impossible to implement such a system,” Siniora said. “When the supremacy of [Hezbollah’s] arms is over, this matter [proportional representation] can be adopted.”
Stressing that the elections should be held on time, Siniora said the Future bloc would continue to call for an electoral law based on a winner-takes-all system.
He voiced hope that the electoral draft law would not be used by some parties to dominate others or amend the Taif Accord, the country’s Constitution.
Although the Orthodox proposal has brought the rival Maronite parties – the LF, the Kataeb Party, the Free Patriotic Movement and the Marada Movement – together in a rare political unity, the draft has drawn fire from President Michel Sleiman, the Future Movement, Jumblatt and several independent March 14 Christian lawmakers.
Meanwhile, members of MP Michel Aoun’s FPM reiterated their backing for the Orthodox proposal.
“When a joint decision by Christian parties under the sponsorship of Bkirki [the Maronite Church] backs the Orthodox proposal, when six out of eight parliamentary blocs endorse it in subcommittee meetings, can anyone doubt that the Orthodox proposal is our first and final proposal?”asked MP Ibrahim Kanaan.