Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Hezbollah and Amal Extend Shi’ite Council Term, Opposition Figures Ask Aoun to Act | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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President Aoun met on Friday with the Ambassador of South Africa to Lebanon, Sean Edward Benfeldt/ NNA

Beirut- The Amal Movement that is headed by Speaker Nabih Berri and its ally “Hezbollah” succeeded lately in pushing for the adoption of a draft law that extends the term of Lebanon’s Higher Shi’ite Islamic Council.

The law stipulates the extension of the terms of both the legislative and executive committees of the council for an additional three years, in addition to filling vacant positions.

“Hezbollah” MP Hassan Fadlallah and Amal lawmaker Ali Bazzi had presented the draft law to the parliament for adoption. But, a Shi’ite opposition source quoted one deputy as saying that the draft law went straight for adoption without deliberations, provoking the outrage of a third Shi’ite faction that feared the issue would become a precedent.

This opposition faction called on President Michel Aoun to intervene and reconsider the decision.

Some Shi’ite officials issued a statement saying the extension of the Council’s term was not an internal affair that only concerned the Shi’ite sect. Those officials argue that such a decision would have repercussions on Lebanon’s national practices.

They sent a letter to “Citizen President Michel Aoun,” which included their statement, and called on the head of state to perform his duties in protecting the Constitution, according to Director of the Umam Documentation and Research center Lokman Slim, one of the officials who had contributed to drafting the statement.

Commenting on the reasons that pushed both Shi’ite parties to extend the term of the Council, Amal MP Ghazi Zoaiter told Asharq Al-Awsat that the decision “was not taken to avoid the elections, but to offer a chance for introducing the necessary amendments to the Council’s internal system that should later be followed by elections.”

Zoaiter said 99 percent of the Shi’ites agree on this matter, adding: “Nothing prevents us from holding the elections during the coming three years if the necessary amendments are introduced.”

In return, Slim explained to Ahsarq Al-Awsat the opposite point of view. “We are confident that President Aoun, who pledged in his oath to protect the Constitution, is working in this direction. Similar to his position regarding the new parliamentary electoral law, the President should confront a law that was unconstitutionally passed by the Parliament.”

The Shi’ite activist accused both Amal and Hezbollah of trying to dominate any decision-making that has to do with the Shi’ite sect.

Slim said extending the council’s term without holding elections also aims at avoiding discussions on dividing the Council’s shares between both Shi’ite parties. Therefore, Amal and Hezbollah would only fill the vacant positions, a task that remains less difficult than reestablishing the council’s executive and legislative bodies, according to Slim.