Detainee Reveals ISIS Plot to Assassinate Lebanon’s Jumblat

Yassine

Beirut – A Palestinian detainee in Lebanon, held on terrorism charges, revealed that the ISIS terrorist group had plotted to assassinate Druze leader MP Walid Jumblat, as well as carry out a number of attacks in the country.

Imad Yassine told a court where he was standing trial that ISIS sought to storm with a car bomb Jumblat’s Mokhtara residence in Mount Lebanon or his home in Beirut. The leader would then be assassinated “because he is the smartest politician in Lebanon,” added the suspect.

The detainee said that creating sectarian strife and sparking civil war in Lebanon was the goal of the plot.

Yassine said that ISIS member Mohammed Kota informed him of the plot.

The group had even carried out surveillance against the target, but that was as far as the plan got before it was abandoned, he told the court.

He said that he opposed assassinating Jumblat because he had championed the Palestinian cause for decades.

Yassine, who is described as the ISIS leader in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain el-Hilweh in southern Lebanon, was arrested by Lebanese military intelligence in October 2016.

The arrest was made during a swift operation after authorities had received information that a series of terrorist attacks were going to be carried out in the country.

The suspect said that he and other ISIS members in the refugee camp had set a number of potential targets in Lebanon. They included the country’s infrastructure, especially tourist locations, such as the central commercial district in Downtown Beirut and Casino du Liban north of the capital.

They also plotted to target the Zahrani gas station, Jiyeh power plant, the main market in the southern city of Nabatiyeh and a restaurant in the coastal city of Jounieh.

Yassine explained that his role was to simply attend the ISIS meeting in order to set the pace and make sure that the plotters were not hasty in their actions.

The plotters included Mohammed al-Chechani, one of the most prominent ISIS members, and his aide Jamal al-Moubayed and Kota.

The detainee denied that he was the ISIS leader in Ain el-Hilweh, asking: “How can I be the leader and wander around the camp without any guards. I was even arrested while I was headed alone to the mosque.”

Earlier on Monday, State Commissioner to the Military Court Judge Saqr Saqr charged Ali al-Hujairi, former municipal chief of the northeastern border town of Arsal, with belonging to an “armed terrorist group (al-Nusra Front).”

He was also charged with facilitating the infiltration of gunmen to take part in clashes against the Lebanese army in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

Hujairi was charged with kidnapping Lebanese and foreign nationals, handing them over to terrorist groups and releasing them in exchange for ransom.

Officials Warn of Strife between Lebanese Army, Syrian Refugees

army

Beirut – Stances in support of the Lebanese army continued to pour in amid warning against the eruption of internal strife in Lebanon in wake of calls for two opposing protests.

The first demonstration was aimed at voicing support for the military and the other was aimed at backing Syrian refugees in the country in wake of the death of four refugee detainees out of 350 who were arrested by the army in encampments for the displaced in the northeastern border area of Arsal in late June.

The General Security announced on Monday the arrest of the administrator of the Syrian Union in Lebanon Facebook page that had exploited the call by the Socialist Forum to hold a demonstration to back the refugees to instead create incitement against the Lebanese army.

The arrest was made in wake of talks that were held by Interior Nouhad al-Mashnouq and the various security commanders. The gatherers decided to reject any demonstration request in order to preserve civil peace and security in wake of the tensions in the country.

The Socialist Forum had in turn canceled its rally that was scheduled for Tuesday afternoon in Beirut’s downtown area.

Mashnouq stressed that there is “constant coordination and consultations between the Lebanese army and political authority.”

“The army does not need demonstrations to support it because it enjoys the complete backing of the political authority,” he added, emphasizing that the situation in the country is under control.

Commenting on the developments, head of the Democratic Gathering MP Walid Jumblat said: “No to demonstrations over the refugees and no to the experiences of the years 1975 and 1967 that harmed the country and divided it.”

“Yes to distinguishing between terrorism and the Syrian refugees,” he added.

He noted however: “Who said that the Syrian intelligence agencies are innocent from what is happening? They may want to create arbitrary clashes between the army and refugees.”

“Let the army perform its duties away from incitement,” the MP demanded.

On this note, political sources from the March 14 camp expressed their suspicion over the Syrian Union in Lebanon’s call for a rally.

“This suspicious call, which is reminiscent of the Palestinian protests against the Lebanese army on the eve of the 1975 war, does not stem from this group’s keenness on the refugees. It appears to bear the hallmarks of intelligence agencies that have taken the decision to use the refugee file to create local tensions and deliver messages to the Lebanese state and other influential countries,” they explained.

“This message warns these sides against ignoring the Syrian regime and its allies in any upcoming settlement to the Syrian conflict,” said the sources.

On Tuesday, an Internal Security Forces Intelligence Bureau force raided the residence of H.Z. in the al-Taamir al-Fawqani region in the South where it confiscated several documents. It was later revealed that he is the administrator of the Syrian Union in Lebanon Facebook page.

He has since been taken in for investigation.

Lebanese Electoral Law: A Political Demographic Crisis

electoral

Beirut – The Lebanese political powers are “living on the edge of the abyss” in their efforts to produce a new parliamentary electoral law a month away from the June 20 end date of the term of the current parliament. Despite the almost unanimous agreement on the need to devise a new law, the current contradictory proposals of the political powers indicate the impossibility of reaching such an agreement.

This agreement hinges on two central factors: the first is appeasing all Lebanese powers and the second is having these powers obtain what they deem as their “right” in choosing the number of MPs to represent them.

In wake of the current stubbornness in stances, it seems that the electoral proposals will not garner this necessary approval. This therefore leaves Lebanon before two bitter choices: either a vacuum in the legislative authority or a return to the 1960 law that was ratified for the 1960 elections.

This law was annulled after the Taef Accord, but it made a return after the 2008 Doha agreement.

The electoral law crisis in Lebanon revolves around reaching fair representation at parliament between Christians and Muslims, as stipulated by the Taef Accord, despite the disparate number of Muslim and Christian voters. Christians only represent a third of the population.

The central dispute however revolves around the main Christian powers’ proposal of the election of Christian lawmakers by Christian voters. This will create several complications, most notably is the difficulty in dividing electoral districts. It will also have negative repercussions on the coexistence of the sects in the country because it cements sectarianism.

A prominent Lebanese authority told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Christian concern over the developments in the region and the targeting of Christians in Syria, Iraq and Egypt is leading them to adopt extreme solutions.

The source added that demographic factors also come into play. He noted that of the latest 1 million Lebanese to be registered in voter records, 800,000 of them were Muslim, signifying a major danger to the country’s demographic balance.

Christians complain that since the adoption of the Taef Accord, its main forces have been marginalized and General Michel Aoun was exiled in 1990 and Lebanese Forces (LF) leader Samir Geagea was imprisoned in 1993. Christian representation then fell in the hands of Muslim powers that could achieve the election of more than half of the Christian lawmakers in the South, Bekaa, North and Beirut. After the strong return of Aoun and Geagea to the political scene in wake of the Syrian troop withdrawal in 2005, they now seek to restore these “rights.”

The truth is that the pursuit of a new electoral law in Lebanon is an endless dispute. Each time elections were set to take place, it was said that the new parliament should have the priority in adopting a new law, but this has never happened except in 2008. At the time, the Lebanese politicians met in Doha in Qatar to save the country from a mini-civil war on May 6, 2008. The political clash between the forces devolved into a military one, when “Hezbollah” invaded Beirut and tried to breach the mountain regions. The gatherers in Doha agreed to return to the 1960 law, which is based on small electoral districts as opposed to large ones that were adopted in laws the post-Taef era.

The 2009 parliamentary elections were held based on the 1960 law and the new parliament set the adoption of a new law as a priority for the next polls. That parliament ended up extending its own term twice without ever proposing a law.

Christian Fear

In order to cater to the fears of the Christians, current Prime Minister Saad Hariri made in 2013 an initiative based on a Taef Accord article that calls for eliminating political sectarianism. Once a new parliament is elected without sectarian restrictions, a senate council that represents all the sects would be established. Hariri’s proposal however called for only setting up the senate, while preserving equal representation between Muslims and Christians at parliament. That same year, Speaker Nabih Berri made a similar proposal, calling for eliminating sectarianism at parliament and preserving equal representation between Muslims and Christians, in return for the approval of a senate.

The peak of the Christians’ achievement in regards to the electoral law was what is known as the “Orthodox Law.” It calls for each sect to vote for its own lawmaker, which prompted wide Muslim objections. Christian forces also rejected it. This law however summed up the Christian fear. “Hezbollah” agreed to the law in solidarity with its ally Aoun. The law however was not adopted.

The so-called “qualification” electoral law emerged in response to the Orthodox one. It relies on sectarian reform and later nationwide elections. This law was first proposed by Berri to meet the Christian concerns that a number of Christian MPs were winning the polls through the votes of non-Christians. He suggested that those who earn 10 percent of the vote qualify to a second round of voting.

The speaker retracted his advocacy of this law after Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil proposed a law that calls for the election of lawmakers on a sectarian basis in the first round before choosing two of them to vote on the national level. Berri justified his rejection by saying: “I proposed this law to produce sausages, while others produced a pig from it.”

In wake of the speaker’s stance, Hariri made a significant position when he retracted his approval for the extension of parliament’s term for another year as he has agreed with Berri. This plunged the country further into crisis, especially after Berri and “Hezbollah” renewed their support for total proportionality in the electoral law on the basis of large districts. These stances were met by a Christian return to the Orthodox law.

Possible Options

Former Interior Minister Ziad Baroud told Asharq Al-Awsat that officials are now faced with either the approval of a new law or a return to square one. Parliament will then probably extend its term for a third time, which President Aoun will reject. He will then refer the extension law back to parliament, which will approve it through a majority vote, thereby making it valid. The president can then appeal the law at the Constitutional Council, explained the former minister.

As for the return to the 1960 law, Baroud said that that would not be an easy task.

“It can be adopted in theory, but it is not missed,” he said, explaining that a number of administrative procedures linked to inviting the voters to the polls and forming the authority to oversee the electoral campaign need to be approved before going ahead with this law.

The following are the stances of the main political blocs:

Change and Reform: Opposing vacuum and 1960 law

MP Nabil Nicola of Aoun’s Change and Reform bloc said that efforts are still underway between the political powers to reach an agreement over a new electoral law. He also noted Bassil’s recent statements that “we are not that far away from adopting a new law.”

“We are now in the position of the listener and receiver after we had been the initiator,” explained the MP. He said that the Change and Reform bloc has proposed 20 electoral proposal, but they were all rejected.

“They even rejected proposals that they themselves had suggested in the past… This is exactly what happened with the ‘qualification’ law,” he stressed.

Berri: Total Proportionality

MP Michel Moussa of the speaker’s Development and Liberation bloc said: “Berri’s stance is clear over the elections…. It is based primarily on proportionality and the Taef Accord, but no one was receptive of it. We can say the proposal has been frozen, but it has not been abandoned.”

“We now need to start searching for final proposals after each bloc offered his vision. We are also waiting for any new proposal on condition that it is acceptable and logical,” he added.

He attributed the failure to reach an agreement on a new law to the division between the Lebanese powers that are each trying to achieve their own interests. He therefore asserted that up until now, there are no positive indications that the current crisis will be resolved soon.

Mustaqbal: Will Go with Any Law that Enjoys Consensus

Mustaqbal Movement MP Mohammed al-Hajjar said that Hariri is still committed to his stance of rejecting the extension of parliament’s term.

“If the extension was aimed at ending the vacuum and giving room to agreeing on a new law, then that is another issue as agreement is one of our main demands,” he remarked to Asharq Al-Awsat.

He added that the Movement’s stances on electoral laws will not be “open or direct, but they will be made away from the spotlight in order to help reach agreement and avoid media speculation.”

LF: Return to 1960 Law if Agreement Fails

The LF’s Wehbe Qatisha blamed the failure of the talks over the electoral law on each party’s commitment to its stances and conditions. Each side is waiting for the other to make concessions that would lead to an agreement over a new law.

“Deadlines are looming however and each party should take a step forward so that we can meet each other halfway,” said Geagea’s aide.

He said that the LF would advocate complete proportionality if the necessary regulations are put in place that would allow Christians to vote for the largest number of their lawmakers are possible, given the current flawed demographics.

He noted however that the 1960 law has not died yet, saying that the elections will be held based on this law if the political powers fail to agree on a new one.

Kataeb: Majoritarian or Proportional Laws

Kataeb Party MP Elie Marouni told Asharq Al-Awsat that they had previously proposed an electoral law based on small districts, but it was rejected by other political blocs. He voiced his support for the law of former Prime Minister Najib Miqati that calls for proportional representation based on small and medium districts.

He said that returning to the 1960 law would be the “greatest of scandals”.

Jumblat: 1960 Law is Most Realistic

Democratic Gathering MP Fouad al-Saad: “Attempts to agree on a new electoral law that appeases all sides will never end because devising a law in a country that has so many sects as Lebanon is not an easy task.”

“It needs a sectarian minesweeper that is currently not available in Lebanon,” said Saad of MP Walid Jumblat’s bloc.

“Given the sectarian mix in Lebanon, the 1960 law remains the most viable and realistic compared to the other draft proposals, which we can say aim to eliminate the other,” he added.

Lebanon: Jumblat Proposes New Hybrid Electoral Law

law

Beirut – Head of Lebanon’s Progressive Socialist Party MP Walid Jumblat presented on Saturday a new parliamentary electoral law in a bid to end the ongoing crisis over the issue.

The new hybrid law is a combination of the proportional representation and winner-takes-all system.

At a time when the majority of political powers took their time in reviewing the new law, “Hezbollah” renewed its commitment to the proportional representation law.

Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil was quick to hail Jumblat’s initiative, saying: “The fact that the PSP has taken the initiative to present a draft-law away from our opinion is a positive step forward.”

The law, revealed in a press conference by MP Ghazi al-Aridi, calls for the election of 64 lawmakers based on the winner-takes-all system and for dividing Lebanon into 26 districts.

The remaining 64 MPs will be elected based on proportional representation and 11 electoral districts.

“This draft law is complete on the national level and does not omit anyone,” Aridi said.

He explained that it caters to the concerns of all political powers, stressing the need to reach an agreement on a new electoral law before May 15.

Speaker Nabih Berri had scheduled a parliamentary session for May 15 during which lawmakers will vote to extend their term for a third time.

Lebanon last held parliamentary elections in 2009. The parliament has since extended its term twice over the political powers’ failure to reach an agreement over a new electoral law.

On the political deadlock, “Hezbollah” MP Ali al-Moqdad said: “As Lebanese, we are required to adopt a new law for the upcoming elections, because the situation can no longer continue without polls.”

The party’s support for proportional representation was echoed by head of the Marada Movement MP Suleiman Franjieh.

“Complete proportionality offer correct representation,” he stressed.

Jumblat’s Druze rival Minister of the Displaced Talal Arslan was quick to reject the MP’s new electoral law, saying that he opposes all hybrid law proposals.

He also backed proportional representation.

Taymour Succeeds Walid Jumblat in Leading Family Legacy

Jumblat

Beirut – Lebanese Druze leader MP Walid Jumblat hesitated a lot before announcing that he is passing the family mantle to his son, Taymour.

Walid Jumblat had to quash many rumors surrounding his intention to pass the “Jumblat leadership” to his successor, perhaps out of “superstition, because the mantle in the family is seldom passed through normal circumstances.”

The MP on Sunday became the first living member of the Jumblat family to transfer leadership to his son. In the past, the mantle was usually passed in the case of the leader’s death, or as often is the case with the Jumblat family, assassination.

Taymour now carries the 305-year Jumblat family legacy on his shoulders. The Mokhtara estate that lies in the heart of the Chouf region in Mount Lebanon has long been a historic symbol of this family.

The origins of the family itself have long been the subject of speculation, with some saying it comes from the line of the Tannoukhy family that ruled vast areas of Mount Lebanon. Others say it comes from the Kurdish Ali Basha Janboulad, who was the ruler of Syria’s Aleppo city.

What is certain is that the origin of the current Jumblat family, which is the leader of the Druze community in Lebanon, comes from Sheikh Ali Jumblat, who inherited the Mokhtara estate and the family mantle from the father of his wife, Sheikh Qabalan al-Kadi, in 1712.

Sheikh Ali passed away at the age of 87 and passed on the leadership to his son Sheikh Qassem Jumblat, who also inherited the Baadaran region. His brother Najem took the Mokhtara estate.

Sheikh Qassem was succeeded by his son Bashir Jumblat, who was one of the most prominent allies of Prince Bashir al-Chehabi, who ruled Mount Lebanon for a long time. Bashir however turned against the prince and had him hanged in conspiracy with the then Ottoman ruler of Acre.

Bashir did not pass the mantle to either of his sons, Nassib and Najib, but to his relative Saeed Jumblat, who was assassinated by poisoning. This was verified by Dr. Riyad Ghannam, who linked the assassination to English-French agendas in the region.

Najib then assumed the Jumblat leadership, who after his death of natural causes, passed it on to his son Fouad, who was “mistakenly” assassinated at the hands of Shakib Wahhab. A French aide, whom Fouad was accompanying, was supposed to be the target of Wahhab’s assassination.

His son, Kamal, was only four years old at the time of Fouad’s death, so Nazira Jumblat chose her brother-in-law Hikmat as political guardian of the leadership.

Kamal came to power in 1943 after Hikmat’s death and remained at the head of the family until his assassination, along with two of his companions, in 1977. Fingers were pointed at the Syrian regime for being behind the murder, but his son Walid maintained an alliance with regime head Hafez al-Assad until his death in 2000. This alliance did not carry on to his successor Bashar Assad.

Ghannam told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Mokhtara was originally a Crusader mansion that was eventually destroyed. Sheikh Qabalan built a new mansion on its ruins. It has since been passed on to various leaders over the generations.

Ghannam revealed that the mansion was built and reconstructed numerous times after falling to the disputes that mired the Jumblat family with its rivals, including Prince Bashir al-Chehabi, who once his alliance with Sheikh Bashir Jumblat fell apart, confiscated the contents of the mansion before destroying it.

MP Walid Jumblat is keen on preserving the legacy of his father at Mokhtara. The estate is filled with photographs and various mementos from the slain leader. Among them is the identification card of Kamal Jumblat with a bullet hole in the middle from the day he was killed. Walid once told Asharq Al-Awsat that he makes sure to look at that ID card every day.

Jumblat Passes Mantle to his Son Taymour

Jumblat

Beirut – Head of the Lebanese Progressive Socialist Party MP Walid Jumblat passed over to his son, Taymour, the “Jumblat leadership” during an event to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the assassination of his father, Kamal.

During the rally held in Mokhtara in the Chouf region on Sunday, the MP handed his son the traditional “koufieh” scarf in a symbolic gesture of passing the mantle to his successor.

Publicly confirming his son as his political heir, Jumblat told Taymour “to walk forward with his head held high” and carry the legacy of his grandfather, Kamal, who was assassinated in Lebanon on March 16, 1977.

“Forty years ago, I was destined to keep on my shoulders an abaya stained with blood, the blood of our master, Kamal Jumblat,” he said, addressing his son.

In the presence of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Saudi chargé d’affaires in Lebanon Walid al-Bukhari and an array of political figures and thousands of supporters from the Mount Lebanon, the PSP leader took off his Palestinian “koufieh” scarf and placed it on the shoulders of his son.

“I am handing him the scarf of Arab occupied Palestine, the progressive Lebanon, the scarf of those who resisted Israel, the scarf of reconciliation and dialogue, and the scarf of Mokhtara,” he said.

He then added: “When the hour comes, bury your dead and rise, then march forward.”

Over the past two years, Taymour, 35, had started to receive on a weekly basis, popular delegations in Mokhtara to hear their demands in what was seen as a transition of power to him from his father. He also attended a large number of political events and meetings in the country.

Taymour is Jumblat’s son from his first wife. He studied political science at the American University of Beirut and continued his higher education in Paris, France. He is married to a Shi’ite lady from al-Zoaiter family and has two kids.

Speaking during Sunday’s ceremony, Jumblat also cited the historic Mount Lebanon reconciliation that took place 16 years ago in Mokhtara between the Druze and Christian communities.

“In August 2001, here in Mokhtara, we held the reconciliation ceremony with Maronite Patriarch [Nasrallah] Sfeir,” Jumblat said.

Taymour Jumblat: Nobody Can Marginalize Us, With or Without Elections

Lebanon

Beirut – Taymour Jumblat, the son of Progressive Socialist Party Leader MP Walid Jumblat, is preparing to run for the upcoming parliamentary elections, topping a list of “veterans” and new young figures, as he says.

The son of the Lebanese Druze leader asserts that he is ready to launch a new phase of political work, following two “preparatory” years in the social arena, upon his father’s wish.

In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, Taymour confessed that his new endeavor was not an easy task, stressing however that he had confidence in his team’s competence and that he would always seek the support of his “great teacher”, Walid Jumblat.

Taymour, who says “hates politics”, finds himself forced to engage strongly in the Lebanese political life, to continue the path of his father.

“Perhaps because I hate politics I can achieve more, seeing what politics lovers did to our country,” he said.

He added that political inheritance was not a characteristic of an ideal democratic practice, noting however that the Lebanese system entails that every confessional leader should look after his confession and protect it against challenges facing the country and the Arab region.

“We live in Lebanon, where the situation is worsening day after day and we must minimize the losses,” Taymour said.

“We are not the only party where the father hands over [the leadership] to his son – the majority of parties in the political arena do the same,” he noted, adding: “We do what we have to do to lead the country amidst the great challenges facing it.”

“To those who criticize [political] inheritance, we say: people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones,” he stated.

Taymour said that holding the parliamentary elections was not a choice but an inevitable constitutional obligation.

He noted in this regard that no political party was seeking parliament’s term extension or political vacuum.

Asked about his recent comments, in which he said that nobody could marginalize the Druze religion, the PSP official said: “There are many people attacking us… I wanted to send a simple message, telling them that with or without the elections, and whatever electoral law is adopted, whether it was based on the majority, proportional or hybrid system, we will be always present, and nobody can eliminate us.”

On the PSP’s rejection to an electoral law based on the proportional system, Taymour said: “The proportional law would shrivel our size, and I believe that no other party would accept to minimize its representation.”

“We are a small confession and a small party that is mainly based in the Chouf and the Mountain; we have to defend our own rights,” he added.

Asked about his electoral program, the rising politician said he had a comprehensive program, adding that he would rather not disclose further details “due to the ambiguity surrounding the elections date and the electoral law.”

He noted however that his program was “ambitious and modern”.

“My general policy would be similar to that of my father, but I will be focusing on the youth to enable them to develop and achieve their hope to build a strong state,” he stated.

Asked about his favorite hobbies, Taymour said he was into poetry, noting that he had written poems in French and English.

“Now I begin to delve more into the Arabic language,” he added.

Lebanon: Jumblat Rallies against Proportional Electoral Law

Lebanon

Beirut – Progressive Socialist Party Leader MP Walid Jumblat has maintained steady efforts to hamper any attempt to adopt a parliamentary electoral law that would be based on the proportional system.

Jumblat, who had voiced his concern over the fate of the Druze community should the upcoming elections in May be held on the proportional system, stressed the need to agree on a law that provides a fair representation to the different Lebanese factions.

In this regard, a PSP delegation visited Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri at the Grand Serail on Tuesday to present the party’s views on the matter.

Heading the delegation, Education Minister Marwan Hamadeh said in a news conference following the meeting that Hariri had expressed his understanding toward Jumblat’s demand for a true representation for all sides in any electoral law.

“All the [officials] we have met have made it clear that they will not approve any vote law that Walid Jumblatt rejects,” Hamadeh said.

While the interior ministry is finalizing preparations to hold the parliamentary elections on the basis of the 1960 electoral law, Interior Minister Nouhad al-Machnouk said on Tuesday that “exceptional efforts” would be made in the next few days to agree on a new vote law.

Speaking following a meeting with President Michel Aoun at Baabda Palace, the interior minister said: “His excellency entrusted me with the responsibility of adhering to the Constitution and laws and carrying out necessary preparations to hold the elections.”

“Political parties assume the responsibility for reaching a political consensus on a new electoral law at the right time,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Free Patriotic Movement said on Tuesday that it would adopt “legitimate and constitutional means” to hinder any attempt to keep the 1960 law in place or extend Parliament’s mandate.

In remarks following the FPM bloc weekly meeting on Tuesday, MP Ibrahim Kanaan said: “The bloc will neither accept an extension [of Parliament’s term] nor the 1960 law.”

Lebanon: Jumblat Rejects all Electoral Laws that Threaten Druze Representation

Lebanon

Beirut – As the date of Lebanon’s parliamentary elections approaches, chances to agree on a new electoral law are waning, as each political party is seeking to have a law that would be tailored according to its interests.

Despite a variety of draft-laws referred to Parliament, ranging from the proportional system to a law combining both the majority and the proportional systems, Lebanese politicians have so far failed to reach consensus over a law that provides the best representation to different factions.

Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) Leader and MP Walid Jumblat has voiced his rejection to any law that would be based on a proportional or hybrid system, reaffirming his adherence to a winner-takes-all system.

Following a meeting with President Michel Aoun in Baabda on Wednesday, PSP MP Ghazi Aridi said: “If the criterion [over a vote law] is to serve sects and true representation, we hope that the honorable Druze community’s view will be taken into account. We insist on partnership and diversity in the mountains and in Lebanon based on the great historic [Maronite-Druze] reconciliation we concluded with our partners in the mountains under the sponsorship of [former Maronite] Patriarch Sfeir.”

Meanwhile, well-informed sources told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that Aoun has explained to the visiting PSP delegation the reasons behind its support to a proportional electoral law, which he said provides a true representation to the Lebanese population.

They added that the president also listened to the PSP’s remarks on the proportional system, noting that both sides have agreed to hold further meetings on this issue.

The sources added that Aoun stressed his commitment to hold the parliamentary elections within the constitutional deadline.

In earlier remarks on Wednesday, Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri said that endorsing a new vote law in time for the upcoming parliamentary elections was at the top of the government’s priorities, while totally ruling out a new extension of Parliament’s tenure.

Hariri’s comments came during a Cabinet session held at the Grand Serail.

Jumblat Advocates 1960 Electoral Law, Berri Warns of Time Constraints

Beirut – Efforts to draft a parliamentary electoral law have seen new developments, as the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) announced on Wednesday its support to the adoption of the 1960 law, shifting from its previous stance on a hybrid law that combines both the proportional and winner-takes-all systems.

As the government awaits the return of President Michel Aoun from his Gulf tour to resolve the issue of the election law, Speaker Nabih Berri warned of “lack of time”, and expressed his concern over some parties’ insistence on resorting to the 1960 law during the spring elections.

The 1960 law, which has governed previous elections, is based on the winner-takes-all system.

Ministerial sources from the PSP said that at the current time, the 1960 law guarantees fair representation to the different factions without exceptions.

In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, the sources said that discussions over the drafting of a new electoral law were not brought to sufficient maturity.

“The implementation of a law that combines the hybrid and proportional systems would be difficult to achieve, which makes the 1960 law the most appropriate choice for the current time,” they added.

As soon as PSP leader MP Walid Jumblat stated his objection to a law solely based on proportional representation, different political parties rushed to reassure him.

A delegation from the so-called Hezbollah party visited Jumblat to offer its reassurances on the matter. The Lebanese Forces (LF) also announced on Tuesday its rejection to any law that does not receive the PSP leader’s consent.

In remarks during a televised interview, PSP media officer Rami Rayyes said that although his party supports the 1960 electoral law, it was still ready to discuss any of the proposed draft-laws, as long as it guarantees national partnership.

Meanwhile, British Ambassador to Beirut Hugo Shorter discussed with Berri the upcoming parliamentary elections.

In a statement issued following a meeting in Ain al-Tineh on Wednesday, Shorter said: “Whichever law they are held under, I hope that key technical reforms such as pre-printed ballot papers will be implemented to ensure modern, transparent elections. I also hope to see concrete measures to increase women’s participation in parliament, and I welcome Speaker Berri’s calls for a women’s quota in this regard.”