Lebanon is facing a mounting political crisis over an electoral law that would enable every religious sect to elect its own members of parliament by a system of proportional representation where the country of Lebanon itself would be seen as one district, Arab media reports.
The “Orthodox law,” as it is being touted, is stoking fears “of a wide return to sectarian fragmentation,” according to the Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat. The measure could severely hinder a parliamentarian’s ability to take care of any type of regional constituency because each MP would be entirely dependent on the nationwide support of their religious group. Likewise, Lebanese citizens could only vote for a political party that matches their religious affiliation.
Passed in parliamentary committees on Tuesday, the law would grant a Greek Orthodox vote twice the weight of a Shiite vote; a Maronite Christian vote would be equal to one and a half times a Sunni vote. Nevertheless, Hezbollah “touts the law as extraordinary because it gives every constituency the right to representation in the Parliament.”
Mostly Sunni as well as secular groups in the country are arguing that, if implemented, Lebanon will degenerate into “a country of cantons,” one “where no one knows where the demarcation lines are between religious groups.” Lebanon’s modern history has been stained by decades of civil war and political strife, the most noteworthy being the Lebanese civil war from 1975 to 1990.
President Michel Aoun, a Maronite Christian by religion, is said to be seeking a political compromise that would generate widespread support, but opponents to the law are skeptical.
“This project is heartbreaking and will cause isolation of Sunnis, Shiites, and Druze,” says Druze MP Walid Jumblatt, the leader of the Progressive Socialist Party, whose members staged a walkout in Parliament in protest. “It will eliminate all cooperation between the different Lebanese sects.”
Lebanese court: Execute ex-minister
A Lebanese military court has recommended the execution of former Information and Tourism Minister Michel Sabaha and Syrian National Security head Ali Mamlouk over the pair’s cooperation in transporting weapons and explosives from Syria to Lebanon with the goal of planning attacks on Lebanese politicians and religious clerics, Doha-based media channel Al-Jazeera reports.
Sabaha, a Maronite Christian, is a longtime supporter of Syrian President Bashar Assad. He was arrested in August on suspicion of planning to carry out bombings in various parts of Lebanon with the cooperation of Mamlouk, a right-hand man of Assad. A large quantity of explosives was found in his car upon his detention.
“The explosives seized in Samaha’s car were not used due to circumstances beyond Samaha’s control,” the text of the indictment reads. The London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi adds that the accused, who confessed to his crimes, sought “to stir up sectarian strife” by “forming an armed gang to commit crimes against people and undermine the state’s authority.”
Attacks were also planned and executed in Syria against arms smugglers and dissidents where rebel forces have taken over.
Morsi gov’t calls on Mubarak supporters to come home
In a desperate effort to get the Egyptian economy back on track, the Islamist-dominated Egyptian government is promising amnesty to supporters of former president Hosni Mubarak who left the country for fear of prosecution on charges of corruption. The Egyptian government is urging them to return to help invigorate the Egyptian financial sector.
The story, which features prominently in the London-based daily Al-Hayat, quotes a senior government sources as saying there “will be an end to criminal proceedings” if these Egyptians, almost exclusively wealthy businessmen, return.
The Egyptian government released an official statement saying “the reconciliation proposal would eliminate prison sentences issued against them and end the freezing of their assets.”
With a nationwide strike set to occur on Friday and Saturday in protest against the Islamists’ mismanagement of the economy, the move to placate Mubarak’s cronies is being seen as a quick measure to restore public confidence.