Lebanon – Suleiman Says Orthodox Proposal Unconstitutional, Encourages Discussion on Proportional Representation

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President Michel Suleiman stated on Tuesday his rejection of adopting the Orthodox Gathering’s proposed law in the upcoming parliamentary elections, describing it as “unconstitutional”.

“We encourage the electoral subcommittee to discuss the proportional representation law,” Suleiman said in an interview with the Progressive Socialist Party-affiliated newspaper al-Anbaa, adding that this so-called Butros draft law can be modified and improved to respond to the concerns of all parties in Lebanon.

The Butros Committee draft law, which was headed by former Foreign Minister Fouad Butros in 2005, has combined in its proposal the proportional representation and winner-takes-all systems.

“Despite its unconstitutionality, the Orthodox Gathering’s law does have a positive side which is considering Lebanon as one single electoral district,” Suleiman noted.

“We expect Speaker Nabih Berri to form a constitutional committee to look into the legality of the proposed electoral laws,” he added.

President Suleiman urged the members of the electoral subcommittee to exert all the needed efforts to come with a constitutional law, adding that the “best solution might be adopting the proposal suggested by the government and modify it to include both proportional representation and the winner-takes-all systems”.

The government had approved in August 2012 an electoral bill based on proportional representation and 13 districts, but it was met with the opposition’s rejection, which deemed it as being tailored to the March 8 majority alliance’s interests.

The electoral subcommittee held on Tuesday the first round of a series of talks to discuss the electoral law. This came after after the opposition agreed to Speaker Nabih Berri’s proposal of residing in a hotel near the parliament building in downtown Beirut, as a safety precaution.

On Sunday, The Christian four-party committee on the electoral law agreed to endorse the electoral system proposed by the so-called Orthodox Gathering, under which each sect would elect its own lawmakers.

Commenting on the issues of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Suleiman said: “We do not turn down any refugee and this stems from our obligations towards the international community and the Human Rights Charter”.

“The Prime Minister and the concerned ministries will coordinate their efforts with Arab countries and the United Nations to get all the needed aid and secure food and shelter to the Syrian refugees,” the president announced, describing this situation as a humanitarian one.

“We pledge to help Syrian refugees regardless of their political orientation,” he remarked.

The Lebanese cabinet had voted on Thursday to adopt a three-part plan to tackle the influx of refugees from war-torn Syria. The plan will involve registration — which means the counting of refugees — medical and food aid, and the security and social consequences.

According to the latest report issued by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 170,637 Syrian refugees have been registered in Lebanon while reports say that around 50,000 are still not registered.

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