05/02/2005, 00.00
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Patriarch Sfeir criticises Syrian-inspired electoral law

Lourdes (AsiaNews) – Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir is "deeply sorry" that the upcoming elections will be held under the 2000 Syrian-inspired electoral law because it is "not in the interests of the Lebanese". For him, Lebanon's National Assembly has to "reflect faithfully the aspirations of the people".

The Maronite Patriarch is currently in Lourdes (France) where he celebrated a mass for 5,000 members of the Order of Malta; back in Beirut however lawmakers have failed to pass a new electoral law for this month's elections.

The elections will therefore be held under a law imposed by Syrian Security Chief Ghazi Kanaan, which divides Lebanon in large electoral districts.

The Patriarch and the Christian opposition want instead a return to smaller ridings.

"Voters must be able to know the candidates they want to elect," Cardinal Sfeir said, "and only small ridings correspond to that criterion".

In the meantime, the united front that had formed against the Syrians has collapsed—Christians want a new electoral law; Sunnis and Druze are opposed.

Shiites are also divided with Amal in favour of the pro-Syrian law and Hezbollah against.

The Patriarch reiterated that "the 2000 law is not in the interests of all Lebanese", but overseas Lebanese are also strongly critical of the 2000 law because it penalises some areas of Lebanon and is designed to favour the rise of local political leaders.

The Patriarch added that "politicians have their own interests to pursue, but this is a time to serve the interests of the fatherland and of the Lebanese people, not one's own private interests."

For some opposition leaders, the old electoral law will allow Syria to retain some influence in Lebanon.

Speaking to this issue, Patriarch Sfeir urged "UN observers to ensure that [Syrian] withdrawal actually took place. One cannot exclude that despite appearances some [Syrians] are still secretly present [in the country]". (YH)



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