Aoun-Geagea War Finishes Off the Orthodox Law

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The parliamentary election law, which would allow each sect to vote only within their sect, could only pass if the Christian forces in March 14 broke with their allies and voted for the proposed law, which was godfathered by the Free Patriotic Movement. (Photo: Al-Akhbar)

By: Hiyam Kossayfi

Published Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Lebanese Parliament was all set to pass the Orthodox Gathering Law. The parliamentary election law, which would allow each sect to vote only within their sect, could only pass if the Christian forces in March 14 broke with their allies and voted for the proposed law, which was godfathered by the Free Patriotic Movement. Until yesterday that's exactly what the Lebanese Forces intended to do, but it all changed in the eleventh hour.

The Lebanese Forces (LF) have backtracked on the Orthodox electoral law and the interests of Christians. This is the conclusion reached by the political movement led by the Change and Reform Bloc and the pro-Orthodox law Christians.

Head of the LF Samir Geagea tells Al-Akhbar that the mixed law, originally proposed by Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri, provides for the best Christian representation in such circumstances.

The Future Bloc, the March 14 General Secretariat, and the independent Christians saved the elections, ensured that the solution will not scare the Christians, and guarantees a partnership between everyone. This is the conclusion of the March 14 mobilization.

The statements and conclusions above, which materialized over the past 24 hours, show that the prospects of a Lebanese Christian alliance was nothing more than a confusing illusion. These rival forces will be more confused as the country slips into the void. This should not come as a surprise after the latest developments, beginning with the resignation of the government and the inability to form another, leave the situation hanging between a hammer and an anvil.

March 14 alarms began to sound when Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri announced that the Orthodox Law would be the only item on the agenda of the parliamentary session.

Meetings were held at every level, from former prime minister Fouad Siniora to March 14 General Secretariat coordinator Faris Soaid to Phalanges Supreme President Amin Gemayel.

The conclusion of the phone calls and meetings was an agreement on a mixed electoral. They then spent the night discussing how to announce it. Someone said that the agreement, though not the best electoral law, was more so a reunion between allies. It should not come as a surprise that last night US envoy Philip Gordon dined with March 14 forces.

The highlight of the settlement was two concessions: the first related to the Future Movement’s agreement to reduce the number of large districts from eight to six, meaning they sacrificed by keeping the Bekaa as a single district, despite this being more favorable to its Sunni adversaries in the region; the second concerned the LF’s agreement on prior approval of candidates in Zahle, Bekaa, and Akkar, which would mean that March 14 will be cleaning house and distributing electoral shares.

However, the mixed law was not met by a consensus the evening of the March 14 general meeting. The Phalanges completely rejected it. Michel Aoun, on the other side, was agitated and started yelling at anyone who would dare refuse the Orthodox Law.

According to information obtained by Al-Akhbar, the Phalanges had many objections related to the law, including which candidates will run for majority seats and which for proportional seats.

In addition, they see the division of Mount Lebanon into two districts, Aley-Chouf and Baabda-Metn-Keserwan-Jbeil, as a serious problem. It meant appeasing Walid Jumblatt, on one hand, and drowning Metn in the Baabda and Keserwan districts.

Therefore, the Phalanges decided to go ahead and vote for the Orthodox Law. March 14, however, looks at the law differently.

According to sources, the importance of any proposal is to find a majority that supports it, so they needed to give Jumblatt what he wanted to keep his vote. As for fears about Metn's votes drowning in the Shia sea of Baabda, it would have been true if the district only contained these two regions, but it also includes Keserwan and Jbeil, meaning the Christian vote will have the main say.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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