Lebanon News

We Want Accountability to field candidate at elections

Protest by We Want Accountability for proportional vote law in Beirut, Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017. (The Daily Star/Ahmad Azakir)

BEIRUT: The “We Want Accountability” civil society movement said Sunday it plans to field its own candidate in the parliamentary elections scheduled for later this year. “Now we are ready, as a social movement, we are ready to change the parliamentary members, we are ready ... to compete,” Naamat Badreddine, a prominent activist within the group, told The Daily Star. “We are trying our best to say, ‘We are here and you cannot ignore our voices.’”

The announcement followed protests organized by the group Saturday. Some 300 demonstrators rallied in Beirut’s Martyrs’ Square, calling on officials to approve a new electoral system based on complete proportional representation.

Badreddine accused leading political figures of doing their utmost to maintain the status quo. She said the hybrid law proposed by some officials that would combine proportional and majoritarian systems, does not curtail the contentious aspects of the existing 1960 law.

“We know they [the government] will not create any law that will change their position,” Badreddine said. She added that the group’s announcement was a pre-emptive move, aimed at dismissing any future claims that the group is using calls for a proportional system as a pretext for delaying elections.

“We are doing this to say that we are ready for the elections,” she said.

The movement’s representatives stressed they would only accept a proportional electoral system.

“We expect that they [the government] will play their last cards in order to keep their position. We refuse to come back to the old [1960] law,” Badreddine said. “We will [challenge it] until the end.”

Implementing a new proportional vote law – or any other replacement – would mean a delay in holding elections, something officials and politicians remain adamant they will not accept. Some have said, however, that they would tolerate a “technical” extension if a new electoral law is agreed upon, but that more time is needed to organize the elections and educate voters.

We Want Accountability believes the hybrid law itself is being used as an attempt to delay the elections.

“There will be no elections, they will delay the elections for ‘technical’ reasons,” Badreddine said.

“Then Ramadan will come in May, which will further delay the elections by a few months.”

Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk signed a decree earlier this month calling on voters to participate in the May 21 elections.

Since then, support for the hybrid law has been growing.

Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt, who initially supported a hybrid vote law before rejecting it, renewed his support for a hybrid earlier this week in an interview with a French newspaper during a visit to the country.

The Lebanese Forces and the Future Movement have called for a hybrid law, while Hezbollah and the Amal Movement are calling for a proportional system. While the Free Patriotic Movement also called for a proportional vote system, FPM head and Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil announced Sunday that his party had proposed two new versions of a hybrid law but both had been rejected. A third law proposed by the FPM is still being studied.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 27, 2017, on page 3.

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