Lebanon News

Harb supports delay of June elections

MP Butros Harb speaks during a press conference at his residence in Hazmieh, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: March 14 MP Butros Harb voiced support Wednesday for delaying the parliamentary elections to give time for an agreement on a new electoral law, while Speaker Nabih Berri said there was no use in reviving the 1960 law.

“The elections are in great danger and the current situation shows that it's almost impossible to hold them on time,” Harb told reporters following talks with French Ambassador Patrice Paoli at the lawmaker’s Hazmieh residence.

And our responsibility is to save it so that we won't plunge the country into a paralysis and if we have to postpone for a month or two or three, so be it,” he added.

But he also said that postponing the polls for more than three months would be “a crime against the Lebanese and the democratic system.”

Given the lack of a consensus on a new electoral law to replace the amended version of the 1960 one used in the 2009 parliamentary elections, the likelihood of the polls being delayed has increased.

The majority of Christian parties backed by Hezbollah and Amal Movement have thrown their support behind the Orthodox Gathering proposal that mandates each sect elect its own MPs.

Harb, along with the Future Movement and MP Walid Jumblatt’s bloc, have rejected the proposal. The FM and Jumblatt are currently drafting a new law in coordination with the March 14 alliance.

The lawmaker also fired back at MP Michel Aoun, one of the Orthodox proposals’ staunchest proponents, saying the head of the Progressive Socialist Party should be held responsible for insisting on adopting the controversial draft law.

“A group .... won't accept anything else but the Orthodox Gathering or Lebanon as a single district, meaning we either do what they want or the only solution is no elections,” Harb said.

“MP Michel Aoun should be held responsible for such a stance,” he added.

Aoun said Tuesday that failing to hold the elections is the responsibility of proponents of the Orthodox Gathering law who refuse to put the proposal to a vote in Parliament.

Earlier this year, the proposal won a majority of votes in the joint parliamentary committees tasked with studying a new electoral law.

Meanwhile, Speaker Berri’s visitors quoted the speaker as saying that the “the 1960 law has been buried and there is no use to reviving it.”

Prime Minister Najib Mikati and President Michel Sleiman have signed a decree calling for the elections based on the law in effect, an amended version of the 1960 law.

“There are new elements that strengthen this conviction and the truth including for example passing the deadline to call on the expatriates to vote,” he was quoted as saying.





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