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Lebanon: Aoun, Berri Disagree Over Electoral Law | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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President Michel Aoun, left, stands next of Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, right, as he makes a speech after he was elected the new president at the parliament hall, in Beirut, Lebanon, Monday, Oct. 31, 2016. (Ali Fawaz, Lebanese Parliament media office, via AP)

Beirut – Lebanon’s political scene witnessed on Wednesday a direct and unprecedented dispute between President Michel Aoun and Speaker Nabih Berri over the ongoing electoral law crisis.

Referring to a law proposed by Free Patriotic Movement leader and Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil, Berri on Wednesday said that the 1960 electoral law, which was endorsed in the 2009 polls, was a “bad” law for the country.

He warned against replacing it with confessionalism, saying: “Our purpose is not to move from a bad prison to one that is worse, from the 1960 [majoritarian] law to a sectarian law.”

“We hold onto the national principles and national approach in dealing with the electoral law and we will never support any sectarian approach towards the new law,” he added.

The speaker made his remarks during a meeting with MPs at his Ain al-Tineh residence in Beirut.

Bassil’s proposal involves sectarian voting in its first round and proportional voting in the second round.

The speaker’s comments came in response to Aoun, who said on Tuesday: “Every leader controlling his sectarian community does not want the minority in that community to be represented and does not want the emergence of an opposition popular bloc.”

“Each one of them wants to steal some parliamentary seats from ‘his neighbor’, and ‘Christians are everyone’s neighbors’, and here lies the problem,” he added.

On Wednesday, the Cabinet, led by Prime Minister Saad Hariri, held an ordinary session during which it avoided tackling the issue of the electoral law to prevent a crisis inside the government.

At the beginning of the session, Hariri underlined the need to consolidate government’s unity and maintain efforts to endorse a new voting system, “so that we can reach a [happy] ending very soon.”