Beirut: Lebanon could see a shifting of alliances as Lebanese President Michel Aoun’s Christian Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), which has traditionally been allied with the Shiite Amal and Hezbollah parties, may switch sides to an anti-Syrian alliance comprised of Hariri’s largely-Sunni Future movement and the Christian Lebanese Forces led by Samir Geagea.
An FPM shift would essentially break the Amal-Hezbollah monopoly in parliament, something that the Shiite parties chief backers Iran and Syria, would dread. The potential realignment comes as FPM leader and foreign minister Jibran Bassil and Shiite Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri continue to lock horns over a new electoral law.
Politicians have been debating revising the archaic 1960 voting law since 2005 and have yet to reach consensus.
According to the 1960 voting law, parliament seats are allocated by religious sects which Lebanon’s most prominent Christian parties want to amend.
They say the law marginalises Christian voters, because, in the winner-take-all model Muslim voters in predominantly Christian districts cast their ballots to candidates backed by lists dominated by non-Christian parties.
Last month, President Michel Aoun made the unprecedented move to suspend parliament which was due to extend its term for third time since 2009.
The move was hailed by Christians but slammed by Shiite politicians including Berri, who also is the Amal party chief.
Powerful Shiite groups like the Iran-backed Hezbollah and Amal want proportional representation or the winner-takes-all system since that would give it potential control of parliament due to its large numbers.
Aoun, who has angered Saudi Arabia over his pro-Hezbollah statements in recent months, is apparently ruffling feathers of politicians in his own alliance.
Berri considered Aoun’s recent remarks to visiting businessmen from Melbourne, Australia, when the president said “those who oppose Bassil’s formula are those who control their communities and do not want minorities represented in parliament”, as a slap in the face.Bassil, Aoun’s son-in-law, has led the charge in parliament and assumed his self-appointed role as the ‘defender of Christians’ in the country.