Lebanon – Joint Committees Vote on First Article in Orthodox Draft as Mustaqbal Says Might Boycott Meetings

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The joint parliamentary committees voted on Monday on the first article of the Orthodox Gathering’s draft electoral law, increasing the number of MPs to 134, MTV reported.

LBCI said the session has been adjourned to Tuesday morning.

Meanwhile, Former PM Fouad Saniora said he might not continue to participate in the joint committees’ sessions if the second article of the Orthodox Gathering’s draft law was submitted for vote, LBCI revealed.

“We will attend Tuesday’s session but we will withdraw our participation if the second article of the Orthodox proposal was submitted for vote,” al-Mustaqbal MP Ahmed Fatfat expressed to LBCI.

Speaker Nabih Berri welcomed on Monday the opposition al-Mustaqbal bloc MPs back to the meeting of the joint parliamentary committees, warning the rival lawmakers that disagreement on an electoral draft-law would endanger Lebanon.

In his opening statement at the meetings of the committees that are scheduled to last till Thursday, Berri said: “Every time we grow apart, we will witness serious consequences not just in parliament but in the entire country.”

“The war of ballot boxes should only be in favor of Lebanon, and if we fail to agree with each other then we would endanger Lebanon,” he warned.

Following the committees meeting, Mustaqbal bloc leader MP Fouad Saniora reiterated the bloc’s rejection of the Orthodox Gathering electoral draft-law, saying that it “only helps increase the divide in Lebanese society and will soon fragment the country.”

“This law contradicts coexistence in Lebanon and violates the constitution,” he added.

He continued: “Despite our opposition to the hybrid law that combines the winner-takes-all and proportional representation systems, we made a position that seeks to reach common ground on which we can reach an electoral law that enjoys the agreement of all components of the nation.”

“I believe that the there is a possibility that serious discussions will be taking place at the joint parliamentary committees sessions for the sake of reaching common ground, which Berri had called for, and we will back this endeavor to reach agreement among the political powers,” stated Saniora.

“We want an electoral law that will help preserve Lebanon as an oasis of coexistence and moderation,” he declared.

Furthermore, the former premier revealed that the Mustaqbal bloc will make an exception to its boycott of government-related activity by attended the joint parliamentary committees meetings.

Free Patriotic Movement MP Ibrahim Kanaan meanwhile slammed the Mustaqbal bloc’s selectivity in boycotting government-related activity, accusing it of hindering democratic life in Lebanon.

He said after the joint parliamentary committees session: “We don’t understand the purpose of the boycott.”

They are mistaken in believing that a boycott will hinder the approval of a new electoral law, he stated.

“The constitution does not belong to Saniora or myself, but the parliament along has the right to explain it,” he added.

“Why is the Mustaqbal bloc now speaking of fair representation, while it has remained silent over the injustice that has taken place over the past 23 years?” he wondered.

“Fears over the Orthodox Gathering proposal demonstrate that the sides worried about it do not want to achieve fair representation in Lebanon,” he noted.

“We seek consensus, but not at the expense of the constitution and fair representation in Lebanon,” Kanaan stressed.

“We will refer the Orthodox Gathering proposal to parliament where it will be subject to a vote,” he revealed.

Last-minute contacts between the country’s top leaders led to an agreement for al-Mustaqbal bloc to attend the meeting on Monday to avoid being held responsible for any delay in the elections, MP Ahmed Fatfat and An Nahar daily said.

“Because there is an attempt to confront the constitution, it is our national duty to participate in the meeting of the joint committees,” Fatfat told Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3) ahead of the meeting that kicked off at around 11:00 am.

The meeting was preceded by consultative talks between the March 8 alliance’s majority MPs and separate discussions between Berri and Saniora.

In his remarks to VDL, Fatfat stressed that his bloc will continue to boycott the rest of government-related activity in line with a decision it took in October following the assassination of Internal Security Forces Intelligence Bureau chief Wissam al-Hasan.

An Nahar said that Sunday’s contacts involved Saniora, al-Mustaqbal movement chief ex-PM Saad Hariri, President Michel Suleiman and Berri.

A member of the bloc told An Nahar that the Mustaqbal MPs decided to end their boycott of the joint parliamentary committees meeting over fears that they will be accused of delaying the elections or canceling them if the lawmakers failed to agree on a new law that would govern the polls.

Their attendance is also necessary to confront the advocates of the so-called Orthodox Gathering proposal, which al-Mustaqbal has criticized for allegedly harming the social fabric and contradicting the Taef accord.

The proposal calls for a single district and allows each sect to vote for its own MPs under a proportional representation system.

Berri said that the joint committees will first discuss the minutes of an electoral subcommittee that failed to reach consensus on a hybrid draft-law that combines the winner-takes-all and proportional representation systems.

The members of the committees will then move to deliberating on the Orthodox proposal, which had previously garnered the support of the four rival Christian parties, over the failure of the subcommittee to agree on the hybrid draft-law.

The Mustaqbal proposed earlier this month a draft-law that calls for dividing Lebanon into 37 small districts based on a winner-takes-all system and the creation of a senate to allay Christian concerns over representation.

But Berri referred it to the government to study it rather than putting it on the agenda of the committees, Fatfat said.

“Why this discrimination?,” he wondered.

 

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