Lebanon Committees Approve Sectarian Electoral Proposal
On Tuesday, Lebanon’s joint parliamentary committees approved a new election law proposed by the Orthodox Gathering. The proposal, if adopted, would treat Lebanon as a single district within which “voters exclusively elect candidates of their own sect.” Seats would still be allotted as decided in the 1989 Taif Accords, half to Christians, half to Muslims. The proposal was supported by Lebanon’s Christian parties, Hezbollah, and the Amal Movement. MP Michel Aoun, leader of the Free Patriotic Movement, said, “Today is the brightest day in Lebanon’s history because rights were returned to their owners without encroaching on the rights of others.” The proposal passed despite a walk-out by the Future Movement and Progressive Socialist Party, and the objections of independent Christian MPs. Future Movement leader MP Saad Hariri tweeted, “The approval of the Orthodox Gathering proposal in the joint committees is a black day in the history of legislative work.” Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat said that the “proposal takes us back to isolation and divides the Lebanese entity.”
It was unclear if the proposal would become law, as it would need to be passed by the full parliament and the cabinet. Several officials have called it unconstitutional based on its potential violation of Lebanon’s national pact. President Michel Sleiman said he would challenge the law, if passed, “because it contravenes the Constitution and enhances confessional and sectarian divisions.” The continued division over the law raised doubts over whether elections would be held in June as scheduled, as Interior Minister Marwan Charbel ruled out holding them unless a consensus was reached.
Last week, a Justice Ministry committee confirmed the legality of civil marriage, which Sleiman said “paves the way for establishing a modern civil state and getting out of sectarianism.” Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani and other religious leaders denounced the decision.