NNA – The President of the Council of Ministers Saad Hariri received this afternoon at the Grand Serail a delegation from the Change and Reform Bloc that included Minister Tarek al-Khatib and MPs Ibrahim Kanaan, Naji Gharios, Gaby Layoun, Salim Aoun, and former Minister Nicolas Sehnaoui.
After the meeting, Kanaan said: “We met with Prime Minister Hariri in these exceptional circumstances to assert our total commitment to the Constitution and our democratic system with all what that means, starting with power rotation, the formation of sound and proper authority and the rejection of extension of the term of parliament.
We felt that we are speaking one language with Prime Minister Hariri. The only difference is that he is concerned about vacuum just as other political forces and officials. But we emphasize that rejecting the extension doesn’t mean the vacuum, on the contrary, rejecting the extension means to urge all political forces with the time that is left, which is not short, to adopt a new electoral law. Everybody knows that if there is a political will we can adopt a new law within hours or days. This law has taken a long time of discussion and the formulas are now known, the acceptable ones, the unacceptable ones, those that can be worked on or those that cannot be discussed.”
He added: “The extension is unacceptable and unjustifiable. For us the extension can be justified only in one case, when it is technical and for a very short period of time that would be studied with the Minister of Interior but in presence of an electoral law. When there is an electoral law that is agreed on and ensures minimum respect of the constitution and the national partnership that we all praise but don’t implement, then it won’t be an extension but a postponement of the elections for a period of time, during which people would be able to absorb the new law and the Lebanese administration, through the ministry of interior, would be able to deal with it in a professional way that facilitates the process of holding the elections.
Everybody must understand that before reaching this solution we will democratically face the process of extension if it is going to take place tomorrow. We are against vacuum and no one is seeking it, but there is enough time before the end of the parliament’s mandate to reach a solution regarding the electoral law if there is a will and this comforts us.”
Question: Some say that the President of the Republic can use his powers to suspend the sessions of Parliament for a month. Is this on the table?
Kanaan: This is the prerogative of the President. He has not used it but this is up to him. Since the first day of the election of the President, we said that we are a political movement supporting the President of the Republic, but the President has full independence and takes his decisions according to his oath and convictions.
Question: You held several meetings today, is Speaker Nabih Berri included in the meetings?
Kanaan: Certainly Speaker Berri is a priority, and no one can make meaningful political contacts without contacting Speaker Berri, and we will contact him.
Question: Who is responsible for not having reached an electoral law after all these years?
Kanaan: We took initiatives, to the point of being criticized. The party leader, Minister Gebran Bassil, was criticized and we hear that every day he comes out with a proposal. He proposed all things, from the mixed law to the complete proportional representation to the majority vote, and so on. I do not want to accuse anyone today, but I assure you that in our view at least, we have done more than our duty and we are ready to continue until we reach an electoral law. It is not our goal to accuse anyone, but the reality is that there are parties that must be more aware of the issue of partnership in the country and the need to produce an electoral law. One can’t refuse a vote on an electoral law and accept a vote on a law extending the term of Parliament. The extension law is a disgrace to us all, because we are taking people’s will to a place they do not want. Either we agree on everything or we vote on everything.
Question: Are your contacts with Hezbollah continuing? Do you accuse them of wanting the extension?
Kanaan: I did not accuse anyone, and every party is free to adopt the stance it wants. I say that we are against the extension, Hezbollah says it will attend tomorrow’s session if held, and that it fears vacuum, this is its opinion and right.
Question: Don’t fear vacuum?
Kanaan: Yes, but in our opinion it is too early for this. The effort that is being put today to produce an electoral law is far more effective than extending the term.