Lebanon News

Hariri meets Salam as election law stagnant

File - Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, right, meets with MP Tammam Salam in Riyadh, Thursday, April 4, 2013. (The Daily Star/Hariri media office, HO)

BEIRUT: Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri Wednesday discussed obstacles hindering the formation of Lebanon’s government with Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam, who was in Paris.

A statement by Hariri’s press office said Salam visited the Future Movement leader at his French capital residence to check on his health after his recent surgical operation.

“The discussion, which continued over lunch, focused on the situation in Lebanon and the region,” the statement said.

The meeting came two days after Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah called on the March 14 coalition to accept a 9-9-6 Cabinet, a demand that was categorically rejected by the Future Movement.

When contacted by The Daily Star, advisers of Hariri and Salam gave no details on the meeting.

The 9-9-6 Cabinet formula, proposed by the Hezbollah-led March 8 alliance, calls for allotting nine ministerial posts to each of the March 8 and March 14 camps, and the remaining six portfolios to centrists.

The Future Movement rejected Nasrallah’s call, saying the party should first withdraw from Syria before the formation of an all-inclusive Cabinet.

After meeting Hariri, Salam returned to Geneva. He is due to return to Lebanon over the weekend.

Meanwhile, MP Robert Ghanem chaired a session of Parliament’s Administrative and Justice Committee and a parliamentary subcommittee formed in 2012 to agree on a new electoral law.

The meeting of the committees, meant to address the electoral law was the first since Parliament’s extension.

“We tasked a [new] subcommittee headed by the rapporteur of the [Administration and Justice] committee [MP Nawar Saheli] and of which some colleagues will be members, to start studying the reforms in the draft electoral law presented by the government,” Ghanem told reporters in Parliament after the session. “This subcommittee will meet next Tuesday to start studying these reforms.”

The newly formed subcommittee includes Future bloc MPs Samir Jisr and Serge Torsarkissian, MP Elie Aoun from Walid Jumblatt’s bloc, Ghassan Moukheiber from Michel Aoun’s bloc and MP Ghazi Zeaiter, from Speaker Nabih Berri’s bloc.

A draft law referred by the government to Parliament would divide Lebanon into 13-medium sized districts under a system of proportional representation.

Also attending the session were caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel and caretaker Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi.

MPs from Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement, the Lebanese Forces and Kataeb Party who participated in the meeting called on Parliament to put to vote the existing draft electoral laws.

Parliament extended its mandate by 17 months on May 31 after rival parties failed to agree on an electoral law.

The majority of parliamentarians voted in favor of the extension, ending the possibility of holding the general elections that had been due to be held the following month.

Berri said work was needed to secure a new electoral law, criticizing again the months-old boycott of Parliament.

“A third of Parliament’s extended mandate has now passed and we have done nothing with regard to this [new electoral law] matter, although the [elections] were set as a priority for the extended Parliament,” Berri was quoted as telling his visitors at his Ain al-Tinneh residence in Beirut.

The speaker, according to his visitors, said: “There is a responsibility on everyone that [the elections] be held at the soonest possible time and that is why I called for the [committees] ... to launch active meetings to discuss a [new] electoral law.”

Berri also criticized the repeated boycott of Parliament by lawmakers. “He criticized the obstruction now taking place in the country,” a visitor said, noting that the speaker warned that “those sabotaging official institutions are driving [the country] toward further deterioration.”

Berri has repeatedly failed to convene a series of legislative sessions to discuss 45 draft laws due to the lack of a quorum. Lawmakers from both the rival political coalitions have boycotted the meetings.

Separately, the U.S. Embassy warned Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria’s civil war would further exacerbate sectarian tensions in Lebanon.

“Involvement of Lebanese parties, especially Hezbollah, in Syria worsens sectarian tensions; jeopardizes security,” the embassy tweeted.

The embassy also criticized the targeting of the Army by gunmen in Tripoli earlier this week, and hailed the role and sacrifices made by the Army.

“Tripoli violence shows need for parties to protect Lebanon from Syrian conflict fallout,” the embassy said. “The US is deeply concerned about worsening security situation in Lebanon, including Tripoli. The US calls for restraint.” – Additional reporting by Thomas El-Basha

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 31, 2013, on page 3.

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