Lebanon News

PM slams Orthodox law, Charbel calls for polls clarity

Prime Minister Najib Mikati heads a Cabinet session at the Grand Serail in Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, March 21, 2012. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: Both Prime Minister Najib Mikati and MP Walid Jumblatt reiterated in remarks published Thursday their opposition to the Orthodox Gathering law, with the latter saying he would refrain from voting on the divisive proposal should it be brought to Parliament for approval.

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Marwan Charbel warned that ambiguity over whether the elections would be held on time or not posed a security threat and urged Lebanese lawmakers to spare the country of tension by ending the uncertainty.

“I have taken a decision not to attend any session of the General Assembly to vote on the Orthodox [Gathering law],” Mikati, who spoke to As-Safir newspaper, said.

According to Mikati, the Orthodox law, which mandates each sect elect its own members of Parliament under a system of proportional representation, violates the Taif Accord which brokered an end to the 1975-90 Civil War and called for establishing a secular state in Lebanon.

“The Orthodox law doesn’t just go against the Taif Accord but cancels it out completely,” he said. “I refuse to be said that I annulled the Taif [Accord].”

The Orthodox Gathering law, which was endorsed by Parliament’s joint committees last month, has the support of most Christian parties, Hezbollah and the Amal Movement but is strongly opposed by President Michel Sleiman, Mikati, the Future Movement and Jumblatt’s Progressive Socialist Party.

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri has not called for a General Assembly session to put the Orthodox law to a vote, giving political sides a chance to reach consensus on an alternative electoral voting system.

Following a meeting with the Speaker Wednesday, Jumblatt told reporters that Berri reiterated that the elections would only be held based on a voting system supported by the rival parties.

The PSP leader reiterated in remarks to Ash-Sharq al-Awsat his opposition to the Orthodox law, saying he would not run in the elections if it is endorsed by MPs.

“I will not run [in the elections] according to the Orthodox [law],” he told the pan-Arab daily.

Jumblatt also dismissed claims that the Orthodox law enjoyed complete Christian support.

“I do not agree... a lot of independent Christians rejected the Orthodox law, starting with President Michel Sleiman as well as a number of prominent Christians like MP Butros Harb,” he said.

During a meeting earlier this year chaired by Cardinal Beshara Rai at Bkirki, the country’s four major Christian parties – the Free Patriotic Movement, Lebanese Forces, Kataeb Party and the Marada Movement – endorsed the Orthodox Gathering law.

Jumblatt added that the stances of Sleiman and independent Christian lawmakers had spared the country of sectarian divisions and strife.

Jumblatt’s meeting with Berri came as a renewed push to reach consensus over a voting system to govern the upcoming elections emerged, days after the signing of a decree that called for holding the polls on June 9 under the current 1960 law, which is opposed by most parties in Lebanon.

Future Movement MP Ahmad Fatfat said Wednesday his group, the Kataeb Party, Lebanese Forces and PSP had finalized talks on the districting and distribution of seats in a draft law that combines proportional representation with a winner-takes-all system.

The lack of agreement on an electoral law has raised the possibility of the elections being delayed.

Interior Minister Marwan Charbel warned in remarks to As-Safir daily that a vote on an electoral law that lacked consensus from all political rivals would have a negative impact on security in the country.

“If lawmakers go to the General Assembly to vote on a law on which there is no consensus, this will lead to direct security repercussions on the streets,” Charbel, who spoke to As-Safir, said.

The minister said that politicians should reach a decision on whether to hold the elections on time or too delay them in order to spare the country of tension.

“The political forces have two solutions: either to agree on holding the polls on time or agree not to. In both cases the security tension will be reduced,” he said.





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