Change and Reform Urges Proportional Representation, Warns over 'State Security' Row

Fecha de publicación: 
22 Jun 2016

The Change and Reform bloc led by MP Michel Aoun on Tuesday called for passing an electoral law based on proportional representation and warned the government and Prime Minister Tammam Salam against committing any “violation” in the issue of the State Security apparatus.

“Lebanon is at a critical juncture and we need to reassure each other rather than fight each other,” Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil announced after the bloc's weekly meeting in Rabieh.

“We discussed what happened around the (national) dialogue table and we are optimistic,” he added.

“Proportional representation reassures everyone and all parties would be represented according to their political weights,” Bassil went on to say.

Earlier on Tuesday, Speaker Nabih Berri warned the national dialogue parties against even “thinking” of holding the next parliamentary elections under the 1960 electoral law, cautioning that citizens would “take to the streets” to reject such a move, as Kataeb Party chief MP Sami Gemayel called for a non-sectarian electoral law based on the one-man, one-vote system.

The dialogue conference will resume for three consecutive days on August 2, 3 and 4 in a bid to reach an agreement over a new electoral law.

The parliament extended its own term twice, the first time in 2013 and a second time in 2014. The extensions were prompted by the political forces' failure to agree on a new electoral law.

Separately, Bassil warned that the country “cannot withstand further mistakes related to the State Security file.”

“We are betting that Salam will not commit a violation seeing as we can respect the norms, hierarchy and law,” the minister added.

“We hope they won't push us to be in a place that we don't want regarding this issue,” he cautioned.

The cabinet had avoided discussing the thorny issue during its session last week.

The session was held a day after media reports said that State Security chief Maj. Gen. George Qaraa had sent the premiership a decree on sending his deputy Brig. Gen. Mohammed al-Tufaili to retirement due to the fact that the latter “has reached the retirement age stipulated by the law.”

Sources close to Salam told As Safir newspaper in remarks published Thursday that it was up to the premier to raise the issue during any cabinet session.

“During a phone call he received from ex-president Michel Suleiman, Salam noted that he has not signed any decree extending Brig. Gen. Tufaili's term, as Suleiman stressed that delaying Tufaili's retirement or extending his term would be illegal,” Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3) reported.

The dispute between Qaraa and Tufaili has effectively paralyzed the State Security agency and deprived it of funding. Qaraa is backed by the Christian ministers while Tufaili is reportedly backed by Salam, Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil, Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq and the ministers of the Progressive Socialist Party.

Christian political parties and ministers have described the exclusion of Qaraa from security meetings at the Grand Serail and the alleged financial “siege” that is imposed on the agency as an “encroachment on the rights of Christians in state institutions.”

Naharnet Newsdesk