Rai urges rivals to settle elections law row

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Rival Lebanese politicians need to agree on a new elections law as well as form a new government to oversee next year’s parliamentary elections, Maronite Cardinal Beshara Rai urged Monday on the occasion of Christmas Eve.

“Partners in Lebanon’s political disputes should be peacemakers and should take the initiative to issue a new elections law instead of the law of 1960 which is at the core of our conflicts,” Rai said in his Christmas address to the Lebanese people.

“[They should also] form a new government capable of running the country to oversee calm elections on time,” he added.

Work on a new elections law was halted in October after opposition lawmakers boycotted legislative subcommittees, including the one looking into several electoral proposals to replace the 1960 law based on the qadaa and a winner-takes-all system.

Formed in early October, the subcommittee was tasked with studying the type of the electoral system and the distribution of electoral districts in the absence of Cabinet members or representatives.

The boycott came after the Oct. 19 assassination of a top intelligence chief in a bid to add further pressure on the current Cabinet to resign.

The opposition has also called for the formation of a neutral government to oversee next year’s polls.

Efforts have been ongoing between Speaker Nabih Berri and March 14 lawmakers to resume the discussions on the electoral draft laws despite the opposition’s boycott.

The March 14 alliance will respond positively to Berri’s proposal for resuming discussions on a new electoral law, former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora told The Daily Star Sunday, a move that raised hope for an agreement on a draft law under which the 2013 polls would be held.

Berri has called on March 8 and March 14 MPs to resume talks on a new electoral legislation before the end of the year, while stressing that elections, scheduled in June next year, be held on time.

In his address Monday, Rai also said that the new cabinet should also be committed to putting forward an economic and political plan that safeguards Lebanon from the repercussions of the Syria conflict.

The new cabinet should also keep Lebanon neutral from regional and international conflicts, the Maronite cardinal added.

“Lebanon and the East need a peace offered from God but one that is made by man so that our countries can step away from violence, terrorism, homelessness and immigration as well as the injustices of dictatorship,” Rai said.

He noted that injustices in the region were rooted in a lack of respect for life and dignity of human beings.

Rai also said that Christmas offered an opportunity for change.

“Christmas day is the start of a new era and an end to all that is old in our lives,” he said, adding that Middle Eastern countries were suffering the pain of transforming into better societies while facing developments that could pull them backward.

“These countries need moderation and democracy where there is alteration of power, reform, diversity in thought and politics,” he said.

“[These countries need] democracy that guarantees freedom of religion and speech, that separates church and state,” he added.

 

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