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Berri: No big amendments to vote law

No substantial amendment to the newly approved electoral law will be made, Speaker Nabih Berri vowed Tuesday as he met with several delegations of visitors.

“If what is meant is amendments that will affect the essence of the agreement and were refused in the [vote law discussion] meetings, then this will not pass,” a statement from Berri’s office, regarding the speaker’s comments to visitors, read.

Before a meeting with representatives from the Press Federation, led by the organization’s head Aouni al-Kaaki, Berri also attempted to dispel rumors that his relationship with Aoun had taken a hit.

Last week, political parties managed to finalize a new vote law based on proportional representation that was then endorsed by Parliament Friday. The legislation brought to an end yearslong debate over a new electoral system, with several politicians maintaining that the new law was the best deal that could be reached.

Nevertheless, some politicians have pointed out that there are gaps in the new law, suggesting that work over the next several months should focus on amending several aspects of the legislation. Free Patriotic Movement leader Gebran Bassil is among those aiming to spearhead a series of amendments.

Berri admitted the new vote law would result in all sides forfeiting parliamentary seats, but stressed that the law was a win for Lebanon.

The legislation is a “full consensual Lebanese compromise,” the speaker said. “This law is a real victory for all the Lebanese and for their accord. It has given a dose of optimism and created a climate of reassurance,” Berri said, according to the press release, as he met visitors at his Ain al-Tineh residence.

Berri told the press delegation that the Amal Movement was the first to put forward the idea of the so-called magnetic voting cards and Berri suggested implementing this wouldn’t be difficult. He explained that this innovation would provide transparency and preserve the dignity of both voters and candidates.

When asked about the lack of a women’s quota, Berri stressed the need to strengthen the role and representation of women in Parliament and other institutions.

“We and the Future Movement voted for the women’s quota, but unfortunately that didn’t work out,” he said.

Berri praised Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai’s position on the new law. The speaker maintained that Lebanese civil society plays an important role, but said civil society groups need to unify their efforts and concentrate on forming coherent demands.

Berri added that there are currently 36 laws on the books that have not yet been implemented, stressing the need to take action on this. It was not immediately clear which laws the speaker was referring to.

As for his relationship with Aoun, Berri described this as positive.

“What’s between myself and the president is an agreement, conformity [in attitude] and more than harmony,” he said.

The relationship between the two leaders came under strain after Berri chose to vote for Marada Movement leader MP Sleiman Frangieh instead of Aoun in the presidential election of October 2016.

When asked why he had had not held traditional weekly meetings with the president as with former heads of state, Berri said the security situation was preventing him from doing so.

He also praised the work of the security agencies, maintaining that as long as there is political consensus, Lebanon’s future is bright.

“The security forces, the Lebanese Army and consensus in the country are what make Lebanon the safest country in the region, and even comparable to the best countries in the world,” the statement from his office said.

Berri also met with Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Ghassan Hasbani Tuesday.

After the meeting, Hasbani said his talk with the speaker had focused on work currently being done and the next steps.

“We touched on the next phase, which will [boost] governmental and legislative work, as well as focusing on economic priorities and the budget, and the importance of endorsing [the budget, because] this will have a positive impact on the work of all ministries,” said Hasbani, who represents the Lebanese Forces in the Cabinet. On whether LF chief Samir Geagea will participate in the meeting Aoun has called for Thursday, Hasbani said, “He will announce this at the time.”

Aoun will meet with the heads of political parties represented in the government Thursday to lay down his plan for the coming months leading up to 2018 elections.

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