“Why don’t we apply the Taif Accord which stipulated the establishment of a Senate where all the country’s different constituents would be represented and liberate the parliament from sectarian representation ,” Jumblatt said in his weekly column PSP’s Al-Anbaa newspaper to be published on Tuesday.
A Lebanese senate is not a new idea according to analysts . Indeed, Lebanon had a senate for a brief period during the French mandate but it was abolished in 1927, a year after it was established.
The Ta’if Agreement (1989) which ended the Lebanese Civil War reconfirmed the call for a senate among the list of required political reforms, using the same language found in the Constitution’s article 22.
The key condition for the establishment of a senate in the Constitution’s article 22 is “the election of the first Parliament on a national, non-confessional basis.” What this means is that the sectarian quotas governing the distribution of seats in the current parliament would be removed. In other words, instead of electing their representatives to parliamentary seats reserved for specific sects (Maronite, Greek Orthodox, Sunni, Shiite, Druze, etc.), citizens would have the freedom to elect a member of any sect to be their representative in Parliament. Similarly, any citizen, from any sect, would have the freedom to be elected representative of their district.
The Constitution states that once such a ‘non-confessional’ parliament is elected, a senate would be established “in which all the religious communities are represented.” The senate would thus serve as a representative body for Lebanon’s eighteen confessional communities, safeguarding their interests and protecting them from the so-called “tyranny of the majority”, as it is expressed by the Chamber of Deputies.
The PSP leader also said that “it is time for the Lebanese to get an electoral law that unites them… rather than proposals that deepen their sectarian divide.”
In his weekly column Jumblatt criticized Iran for failing to include the release of the nine Lebanese pilgrims held hostage by rebels in Syria since last May.
He said Tehran could have included the Lebanese abductees in the negotiation process that led to the release of 48 Iranians last week.
The Iranians held hostage by rebels for more than five months in Syria were freed in a prisoner exchange after the rebels agreed to swap them for more than 2,000 detainees held by the Syrian regime.
The swap was arranged through mediation by Turkey and Qatar, according to several sources.
Eleven Lebanese pilgrims were seized by rebels in the northern province of Aleppo on their way back home from pilgrimage in Iran last May. Two have so far been released but the other nine remain as hostages in the Aleppo town of Aazaz.
“This incident is proof to the Lebanese parties that states only care for their direct interests,” Jumblatt said.
He advised the major political parties in Lebanon “not to fall in the trap of commitment with foreign sides because they simply care about their private plans even if they come at the expense of the Lebanese and their freedom.” A possible reference to Hezbollah militant group which has been accused of being a fifth column for Iran in Lebanon.
Jumblatt also criticized the reaction of the International community to the Syrian crisis, saying that some international leaders have had “contradictory stances and statements,” while the Arab countries are being “indolent.”
“[The uprising] has turned into a civil war… in the absence of any serious international and Arab [effort] to save the Syrian people.”
Syria is witnessing a violent uprising against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, which has killed more than 60,000 people since its outbreak in March last year, according to figures released by the United Nations.