Mass Rally in Lebanon in Opposition to Electoral Law

BEIRUT (Aztagdaily/Reuters)–As the first round of elections approaches on May 29–thousands gathered in the center of Bourj Hammoud on Thursday to demand that Lebanon’s Armenian community is justly represented in the country’s parliament. Armenia’s and other minorities have consistently called for reforming the existing 2000 electoral law that does not allow for equal representation.

Addressing the crowd–Hratch Varjabedian stressed that adherence to democratic principles is the first step in ensuring not only mass voting–but also that the population is justly represented in parliament. ARF Central Committee member Hovhanness Taslakian–speaking in Arabic–said that the 2000 law–because of its failure to properly grant representation to Lebanon’s Christian communities–especially the Armenian community–must be reformed.

"If justice is not restored and the Armenian people do not gain what they justly deserve–then this gathering will be the first of many steps to follow," said ARF CC member Hovig Bertizlian. "The ARF has exhausted efforts to reform the 2000 electoral law so as to amend certain constituencies–but it appears that that law will stand."

The upcoming ballot will be the first without a direct Syrian presence in Lebanon in 33 years and most Christians strongly object to the law.

Christian leaders–from top officials loyal to Syria to vehemently anti-Damascus bishops–have slammed the electoral law–designed in 2000 to help Damascus allies win seats in the chamber they now dominate.

But with Syria ending its 29-year military and intelligence presence last month–Christian loyalists have turned against the law–which carves the country into a mixture of smaller and larger electoral districts.

The Taif Accord which ended the 1975-1990 civil war that split Lebanon into Christian and Muslim enclaves–divides parliament’s 128 seats in half between Muslims and Christians–whatever the rules.

Christians warn the 2000 law would upset the country’s delicate sectarian balance by drowning out Christian voices in large voting districts dominated by Muslims.

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