BEIRUT: Maronite Cardinal Beshara Rai has voiced support for extending the terms of Parliament and president for a limited period of time in order to prepare for the adoption of a new electoral law.
“If they have to extend the terms in order to allow people [time] to understand the new law and prepare for it then so be it, whether for two, three or even four months,” Rai told Russia Today in an interview published on its website Friday.
“Everyone is against extending the mandates, whether for Parliament or for the president. Everyone says they're against the extension. It is no longer acceptable to return to the 1960 law,” he said.
Rai’s comments come a day after Prime Minister Najib Mikati signaled his government was close to moving forward with the parliamentary elections based on the 1960 law.
Mikati said Thursday he agreed with President Michel Sleiman to sign a decree calling on voters to participate in the upcoming elections.
The move is likely to refute expectations that the polls scheduled for June 9 could be delayed.
Sleiman, who strongly opposes the Orthodox Gathering electoral law that won the support of the Maronite Church, major Christian parties and been endorsed by Parliament’s joint committees, says he will not sign a decree extending Parliament's mandate.
The 1960 law, rejected by most of the country’s politicians, was used in the 2009 parliamentary polls and adopts the qada as an electoral district based on a winner-takes-all system.
“Everyone has complained about the 1960 law and for years they have been working on finding a new law in committees and through projects ... Their dignity lies in drafting a new law that everyone can agree on in the interest of all [Lebanese],” Russia Today quotes the religious leader as saying.
Rai said some political groups were attempting to tailor the new law according to their interests, adding: “[Even with] all this, I still have faith that the Lebanese will reach a solution and a law will be adopted.”
He reiterated his support for the rotation of power and elections, describing them as some of the hallmarks of Lebanese democracy.
The head of the Maronite Church also said that the current security situation in Lebanon should not prevent the holding of the elections, "unless, God forbid, things take a turn restricting people’s movements then there will certainly be a difficulty.”
On the situation in Syria, the preacher said Lebanon needed to play a role of peace promotion.
“Lebanese should recognize that their interest in Lebanon and Syria lies in being an element of peace in Syria - not a source of tension,” he said.
The Maronite leader added that Lebanon had a role to play in promoting peace and stability in the Middle East as a whole.
“We should be demanding peace, understanding and stability as loudly as we can,” he said.
“We too have experienced the plagues of war and we recognize that it was absurd and did not resolve anything,” he added.
Rai also said that the government in Damascus and the Syrian people needed to work together and implement needed reforms.
“Reforms cannot be forced or come from the outside but it should be from the inside and so Syrians, as a government and people, should sit together on the negotiating table to manage their affairs and reach solutions,” Russia Today quoted Rai as saying.