The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Lebanon’s minority Christian sects demanded greater representation in Parliament Thursday and called on lawmakers to add two more seats for the group in the upcoming parliamentary elections.
Following a meeting at the Chaldean Archdiocese in Baabda, Chaldean Bishop Michel Kassarji said that religious figures of all six minority sects had agreed to demand the addition of two parliamentary seats that would represent all six communities, as was currently the case, and not specific sects.
Kassarji said all six groups – Syriac Orthodox, Syriac Catholic, Latins, Assyrians, Chaldeans and Copts – were in agreement. However, representatives of the Syriac Catholic Church did not attend the meeting.
Leading officials in the six minority sects argue that they are underrepresented and their rights are marginalized by other sects.
“The agreement we reached is to add one seat for minorities in Metn and another in Zahle,” Kassarji told The Daily Star.
The single seat currently designated for minorities in Beirut’s third district is represented by MP Nabil de Freij, a Latin.
In the past year, the issue of representation of the minority sects has been the subject of a political tug-of-war by rival parties.
Following the collapse of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s government, the Free Patriotic Movement has supported the idea of allocating the Syriac community a ministry in the Cabinet of Prime Minister Najib Mikati, in order to attract the support of the voters of the minority sects.
Politicians in the March 14 coalition have decided to take another approach in dealing with the representation of the minorities in Parliament, namely by recommending that the Syriac Orthodox receive a seat in Zahle, with Syriac Catholics receiving one in Beirut.
March 14’s proposals for minority seats have been discussed in the ongoing parliamentary subcommittee meetings, but legislators have yet to agree on a new electoral law for the upcoming elections.
“Not specifying the seats for a particular sect is in the interest of all minority sects,” said Kassarji.
Representatives of the five sects that attended the meeting also called on Parliament to move the minority seat from Beirut’s third district to Beirut’s first district. While voters in Beirut’s third district are predominantly Muslim, the majority of voters in Beirut’s first district are Christian.
Kassarji said that the minority sects would relay their demands during upcoming meetings with a number of politicians and political parties.
“We already met with Metn MP Sami Gemayel this week, we will meet other politicians next week,” Kassarji added.