Hizbullah Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah on Wednesday called for endorsing an electoral law based on proportional representation and a single electoral district, warning that some parties are seeking sectarian strife between Sunnis and Shiites in Lebanon.
“There is an alternative that addresses all the reservations voiced over the Orthodox Gathering law and we will work in a very serious manner for this alternative choice, although the Orthodox law will remain on the table,” said Nasrallah in a televised address he made to comment on the latest developments.
“An electoral law based on proportional representation and a single electorate district would prevent extremism and achieve justice, equality and national unity. The circumstances require such a proposal, although we don’t have enough time to pass it,” said Nasrallah.
“This law is based on turning Lebanon into a single electorate and does not divide the districts according to sects, alliances, groups, parties or families,” he explained.
Nasrallah described the proposal as “a just, fair law that does not eliminate anyone and opens the door for moderation.”
“Why is it an unattainable dream? At the moment, this is a patriotic and humanitarian dream, so let’s achieve it,” he added.
Hizbullah’s leader pointed out that “all the reservations over the Orthodox Gathering proposal can be addressed through this proposal,” adding that Hizbullah will make the legal steps needed to submit this proposal.
Nasrallah’s ally, Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun on Friday said “the alternative” to the controversial electoral law proposed by the Orthodox Gathering would be an electoral law that turns Lebanon into a single electoral district under a proportional representation system.
“There are remarks about postponing the elections and accusations against Hizbullah are being launched. There are foreign and local forces that are seeking postponement, but no one has the courage to say that openly and they want to blame it on someone and they have picked Hizbullah,” added Nasrallah.
“These are lies and false accusations and it is in our interest that elections be held on time under a law other than the 1960 law,” he clarified.
“Our popularity is fine and the situation in Syria has not changed, so why would we seek to postpone elections? Those seeking postponement are the ones waiting for the situations to change in Syria, Lebanon and the region,” Nasrallah charged.
Commenting on a media report claiming that he had been transferred to Iran for treatment after falling ill, Nasrallah said: “The rumors circulated in the past two days and the repercussions they created pushed me to bring forward the date of my televised address and I stress that all the rumors you heard are baseless.”
“Here I am making a televised appearance and the rumors give you an example about the media war being launched against Hizbullah,” he added.
Turning to the issue of the clashes in the Lebanon-Syrian border area and the countryside of Syria’s Qusayr, Nasrallah said: “There is a media uproar, including a report claiming that the Free Syrian Army had shelled Hizbullah positions and that I was wounded in Hermel. There is also a report claiming that (Hizbullah deputy chief) Sheikh Naim Qassem was wounded in (a bombing in) Jdeidet Yabous. These are mere lies of course.”
“Media outlets quoted the U.S. ambassador as saying that there is a plan agreed on by the Syrian regime and Hizbullah to occupy or seize control of several Sunni towns in Qusayr’s countryside, which is close to the border, in order to connect the towns inhabited by Shiites as part of the Alawite state scheme. This accusation is new and dangerous,” Nasrallah added.
“The most important thing is we need to verify an incident is facts. Where are the evidences and facts?” Nasrallah asked.
He stressed that all things said about such a scheme are “lies and baseless accusations.”
Nasrallah pointed out that the facts on the ground in that area “can confirm the opposite, as the Lebanese residents, who are predominantly Shiite and some of them belong to Hizbullah, have not managed until the moment — and they have no such plans — to seize control of any Sunni village.”
“What happened is that the armed opposition seized control of villages inhabited by Lebanese Shiites and displaced the residents. That happened in the town of Umm al-Damamel,” he explained.
He added that Shiites were expelled from their neighborhoods in Sunni towns and villages.
Nasrallah noted that “military campaigns” are taking place in a bid to uproot the Lebanese residents from the Syrian towns.
“The rest of the residents of these towns have taken up arms to defend themselves and they have the right to defend their existence. This issue enjoys the approval of all Muslim scholars and anyone killed for that cause is a martyr according to all the scholars and it does not need a fatwa from here or there,” Hizbullah’s chief added.
He revealed that throughout the previous period, mediators and dignitaries were trying to achieve reconciliations, but “gunmen from outside Syria prevented any reconciliation,” adding that “the bloodshed must be stopped in order to preserve the region and prevent any strife.”
Three Lebanese Shiites were killed in fighting in Syria, a Hizbullah official said on February 17, as the Syrian opposition accused the Lebanese group of intervening on the side of the regime.
The official said they were acting in “self-defense,” without specifying if they were Hizbullah members.
Hizbullah has systematically denied sending fighters into Syria, though Nasrallah acknowledged in October 2012 that party members had fought Syrian rebels but said they were acting as individuals and not under the group’s direction.
Nasrallah has clarified that Hizbullah fighters were killed while defending Lebanese-inhabited border towns inside Syria, noting that that there are 23 Syrian border towns and 12 farms that are inhabited by Lebanese residents of various religious beliefs, adding that around 30,000 Lebanese residents live in these towns.
In his televised address, Nasrallah reiterated that “these are Lebanese citizens.”
“What has the (Lebanese) state done for these 30,000 Lebanese citizens? We are not demanding the intervention of the (Lebanese) army but no political efforts have been exerted. Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the U.S. have influence over the gunmen. What efforts have been exerted to stop the religious and sectarian cleansing that is happening in border areas?” Nasrallah asked rhetorically.
Turning to the domestic developments, Nasrallah warned that “some parties are pushing Lebanon in a very rapid manner to sectarian strife and working on that night and day and all the facts verify this issue.”
“Should we surrender to this reality? No, because strife does not serve anyone’s interest,” he added.
“I want to tell those who are counting on sectarian strife that they should stop their bets, as strife would destroy the country and no one has an interest in that,” Nasrallah went on to say.
He called on the “wise” leaders in the country to shoulder their responsibilities.
“If the incitement is based on facts, let us clarify them, and if they are based on illusions let us also clarify them, so that we don’t burn the country,” Nasrallah urged.
He warned that “some statements and remarks by some MPs who belong to the dear Sunni sect are taking a very provocative and seditious course and no one is trying to ask them what do they want to achieve.”
“If they are saying facts, let us clarify them, but some accusations are based on grudges and Hizbullah, AMAL and the Shiites have nothing to do with them,” he added.
Nasrallah recalled several security incidents in which some parties pointed the finger at Hizbullah.
“When an incident happened at a checkpoint in the North and the two clerics (Ahmed Abdul Wahed and Mohammed Merheb) were martyred, some northern MPs pointed the finger at Hizbullah. What do we have to do with this and where are the Hizbullah members who were manning the checkpoint? These are mere lies.
“They’re also saying that the army’s intelligence directorate is implementing Hizbullah’s orders, but when you tell them that regular troops were manning the checkpoint they would tell you that the entire army receives orders from Hizbullah. Where is the evidence and where is the proof? I categorically deny that,” added Nasrallah.
Commenting on the issue of Islamist detainees, Nasrallah said: “Who is delaying the trial of Islamist detainees? It is untrue that Hizbullah is controlling the judiciary, these are pure lies. Hizbullah has no influence over the trial of Islamist detainees, it is rather demanding justice for them.”
He also recalled that Internal Security Forces Intelligence Bureau head Wissam al-Hasan was assassinated in a “murderous crime.”
“Before any investigations and from the very first moment these lawmakers accused Hizbullah of killing Wissam al-Hasan,” added Nasrallah.
“After the Tall Kalakh group crossed into Syria and were killed in clashes with Syrian forces, what did they say? They accused Hizbullah of infiltrating the group and passing on information to the Syrian army and they even accused Hizbullah of killing the members,” he said.
Turning to the Arsal incident, Nasrallah said: “From the very first moment of the Arsal incident, which led to the martyrdom of army troops, they said that Hizbullah had entered Arsal and that Hizbullah members were killed. But when that turned out to be false, they said that the army receives orders from Hizbullah. What were they trying to do? Arsal is a Sunni town surrounded by Shiite towns and when you say that Hizbullah entered the town what are you trying to achieve? Do you have an evidence?”
“Some parties want sectarian strife to erupt within a few days, not months or years,” he warned.
Commenting on the situation in the southern city of Sidon and the accusations launched by Islamist cleric Sheikh Ahmed al-Asir, Nasrallah said: “We have a lot of allies in Sidon, especially in the Sunni sect. But thousands of Shiites have been residing in Sidon since hundreds of years, do they need a permission now? We were among those who fought to liberate Sidon and the South and we have offices, houses, mosques and complexes in Sidon since 30 years.”
“We had offices in Abra before the (Bilal bin Rabah) mosque was built. Where will these insults lead us? We have not responded to these insults and will not be dragged to such insults. No one will launch a military response against any insults and I stress to our supporters that it is haram to respond to any insults,” he added.
“Some parties must shoulder their responsibilities and we are extremely keen on civil peace, but no one should make wrong calculations. We do not want to threaten anyone or storm anyone’s house and we’re only concerned with raising our preparedness in the face of the Israeli enemy,” Nasrallah went on to say.
Asir and his supporters deployed Friday with their weapons around the Bilal bin Rabah Mosque in Sidon, after the cleric accused Hizbullah of “renting apartments” in the vicinity of the mosque to “monitor” his movements.
“Recently, the mosque’s neighbors, and we’re among them, noticed some rented apartments that are inhabited by young men who are not residents of the area, and the neighbors thought that they are students,” Asir said, adding that “a dispute happened recently and heavily armed young men came out of these rented apartments and threatened the neighbors.”
The anti-Hizbullah Salafist cleric urged officials and authorities to force the evacuation of the apartments to avert a possible “strife or any dangerous incident.”
Interviewed by al-Jadeed in the wake of Friday’s armed deployment, Interior Minister Marwan Charbel said “there is nothing going on in Sidon and no Hizbullah members are monitoring al-Asir’s movements.”