Geagea urges allies to strive for consensus electoral law

23 February 2013

BEIRUT: Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea urged his allies from the March 14 coalition Friday to make sacrifices in order to reach a consensus over an electoral law rather than slam the controversial Orthodox proposal.

“I call on allies in the March 14 coalition to make sacrifices to make a consensus possible rather than curse the [alleged] darkness of the Orthodox proposal. Let’s light a candle in the sky of a consensus law,” Geagea said during an LF ceremony at his Maarab residence.

“We want a new electoral law because the country needs one, not because Christians want to take revenge for previous years ... or a law that brings back the demons of the past,” he added.

Both the LF and the Kataeb Party have voiced their support for the Orthodox proposal and voted for it Tuesday in Parliament’s joint committees along with the Free Patriotic Movement, Marada Movement, Hezbollah and the Amal Movement.

President Michel Sleiman, the Future Movement, Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt and independent March 14 Christians blasted the move, saying if the law was passed by Parliament, it would only serve to deepen sectarian divisions.

If passed, the draft law will allow every sect to elect its own MPs under a proportional representation system with the entirety of Lebanon as a single district.

Geagea also criticized the “the placebo victory we have seen in recent days,” in an indirect reference to FPM leader Michel Aoun, who said the joint committee’s approval of the law was an achievement.

“Any local victory against the other in Lebanon is a loss for everybody in the long-term. We insist on a draft electoral law that satisfies most if not all groups and is not aimed against the other,” Geagea said.

Aoun reacted to Geagea later during an interview, saying that “[passing] the draft law is not a victory – victory is achieved during elections.”

Aoun said he adheres to the Orthodox plan because it allows Christians to elect their 64 MPs. “The alternative [I accept] is having the entirety of Lebanon a single district under proportional representation,” he said.

The FPM leader said he supports adopting the Orthodox proposal for the June elections only and accused the March 14 coalition of working to cancel or delay the polls. Geagea dismissed claims that his party was sectarian, noting that over the past seven years it had taken patriotic positions and worked for the interests of all Lebanese.

Meanwhile, President Michel Sleiman discussed with Kataeb leader Amin Gemayel at Baabda Palace the proposed electoral draft laws, highlighting the importance of having a modern law that provides fair representation for all groups in society, in line with the National Pact.

Gemayel also briefed the president on Thursday’s meeting in Bkirki of Maronite leaders who convened to discuss an electoral law that would satisfy the majority of Lebanese.

Later, Sleiman was a dinner guest of former Minister Nayla Mouawad at her home. Media reports said former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and independent Christian figures were also present.

Following the meeting chaired by Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rai, rival Maronite leaders said they were open to any plan that ensured true representation.

Batroun MP Butros Harb, who was in attendance, described the meeting as productive because it kept the door open for discussing other proposals.

“I believe it was good and came up with a good result, which is the openness to discuss other electoral proposals and acknowledging the fact that Christians do not all have one opinion [regarding the Orthodox proposal],” Harb told The Daily Star.

“I believe the patriarch felt there is a crisis resulting from the fact that the Orthodox proposal does not solve the problem of [Christian representation]; there are Christians and non-Christians against it and the president is against it,” he added.

Harb said he felt that Aoun had no interest in reaching a solution, unlike the Kataeb and the LF. “The Lebanese Forces, the Kataeb and I believe that we should look for a law that provides fair representation but at the same time preserves Lebanon rather than leading to bigger problems,” Harb said.

A source close to Speaker Nabih Berri told The Daily Star the speaker would stick to his hybrid law proposal, which calls for 64 MPs being elected under a winner-takes-all system and 64 under proportional representation. “He is making this proposal as a speaker who is trying to help [all parties] reach a consensus, he supports any draft electoral law that all Lebanese agree on,” the source said.

Berri’s hybrid proposal would divide Lebanon into six governorates and the 26 districts that were adopted in the 1960 law.

Half of the lawmakers would run on a governorate level where proportional representation would be applied, and the other half would run from from the smaller district-level under a winner-takes-all system.

“In the qada of Marjayoun-Hasbaya for example, you have five MPs: two Shiites, one Sunni, one Druze and one Greek Orthodox. The Greek Orthodox will be elected by residents of the south governorate, and not only by his qada, in order to allow Greek Orthodox in Sidon, for example, to vote for him,” he said.

Political sources told the Central News Agency that elections are likely to be postponed under one of three pretexts: the failure to agree on a new law, the failure to adequately prepare for the elections, or the failure to form the elections supervisory committee, which has not been appointed due to disputes between Cabinet parties.

© Copyright The Daily Star 2013.

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