Lebanon Christian leader slams election law

BEIRUT (AFP) – Christian hardline leader Michel Aoun, who returned home at the weekend after 15 years in exile, savaged Lebanon’s electoral laws that have set the framework for polls planned to start this month.

He said that the Syrian-tailored electoral law of 2000 that breaks Lebanon into large constituencies marginalises Lebanon’s Christian community which wants smaller voting areas.

“We will never submit ourselves to this situation and we reject folkloric meetings that are held to promote the scenarios of alliances that are nothing but treachery and falsehood,” he said.

His comments, made following talks with Maronite Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, came hours after Lebanon’s Maronite bishops warned the law would disrupt the country’s fragile Christian-Muslim coexistence.

The law “violates… coexistence between Christians and Muslims and does not allow for fair elections,” said a seven-point statement from the bishops issued after a meeting called by Sfeir.

“We call on all the Lebanese officials to act and prevent the harmful repercussions of this law,” it said.

Aoun, for his part, commented that before the Syrian withdrawal on April 26 “it was the head of Syrian military intelligence Rustom Ghazale who was putting together the electoral lists.

“Today we have several Rustom Ghazales, one in each region who put themselves in feudal charge of the Lebanese people and hand out MPs’ seats”

The Lebanese people “must stay mobilised in the face of this attempt to marginalise them… with all the means that will be specified following consultations with those who refuse to maintain the situation we have been fighting against for 15 years,” he added.

Soldier-turned-politician Aoun, who headed an interim military government in the dying days of Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war, returned on Saturday to a hero’s welcome from supporters after his exile in France.

The Lebanese government, under pressure from the international community, said elections for a 128-seat parliament will take place on four consecutive Sundays starting May 29.

Syria completed the withdrawal of its troops and intelligence services from Lebanon on April 26, ending 29 years of military and political domination of its smaller neighbour.