News from Beirut May 20 1997 ...Search

-Lebanon Constitutional Council Rulings Nullifying Election Results

The following is a summary of the constitutional council's rulings on each of the nullified election results:

Robert Ghanem versus Henri Chedid: 'Various and serious violations of the election law', including polling station reports not containing the names of all candidates, or the reliance of presigned or unsigned polling station reports; unsigned vote counts or vote counts lacking the name of the locality in question or the number of the polling station, 'great imbalances' in the administering of the election process in the governorate of the Bekaa, due to the interior ministry's deficiency in training polling station officials; dangerous violations of articles 54 and 58 of the election law.

-Nazem Khouri versus Emile Nawfal: 'Many electoral violations' including bribery by a candidate; primitive' and lengthy vote-counting procedures; polling station reports lacking the names of all candidates, unsigned or incorrectly signed reports, some of which lacking the name of the locality in question or the number of votes.

- Mikhail Daher versus Fawzi Hobeich: 'Pressures' practiced against voters, which affected the vote totals in such a way as to make it impossible to quantify.

- Mohammed Yahya and Jamal Ismail versus Khaled Daher: Miscounting of votes; many and serious violations in the ordering of the polling station reports, such that it was not possible the ascertain the correctness of the (election) results they contained'. Although the council cannot correct the results on the basis of faulty numbers in 1,000 polling station reports, there is a small difference in the election results. The decision accepts the two challenges.

- Four deputies yesterday lost their parliamentary seats and will have to wait two months for by-elections to run again for their seats. Out of the house after a long-delayed constitutional council ruling on complaints arising from last summer's elections are:

Henri Chedid (West Bekaa)

Emile Nawfal (Jbeil)

Khaled Daher (Akkar)

Fawzi Hobeish (Akkar).

- After several months of controversy over the challenges against the legality of 17 parliamentary seats, coupled by heightened political tensions and accusations leveled at the constitutional council, the council delivered its verdicts yesterday morning. Chedid, Nawfal and Daher had been expected to lose their seats, but the ruling against Hobeish, who doubles as culture and higher education minister, came as surprise. The complaint against his victory had been submitted to the council by former Akkar MP Mikhael Daher. The council ruled that there had been a variety of breaches of electoral practice in the four cases from bribery to pressure on voters, from miscounting votes to unsigned vote counts. Hobeish and Chedid are believed to have had the support of president Elias Hrawi during the polls. Some observers were also surprised at the constitutional council's decision to hold by-elections, instead of replacing the four MPs with their nearest competitors last year.

Two criteria concerning the by-elections still have to be clarified. The first is whether any prospective candidate will be allowed to run for the seat or whether to run for the seat or whether the by-election will be confined to the outgoing MP and his challenger. Interior minister Michel Murr said yesterday that since no restrictions were mentioned the council's decision implies any candidates can stand for election. The second issue centers on whether the Jbeil contest will be held at the level of caza or mohafaza. A special dispensation was made in the 1996 election law which decreed that the election in Mount Lebanon would be held at caza level for one time only.

Deputy speaker Elie Ferzli said yesterday that he was in favor of holding by-elections in Jbeil on the basis of caza. "We have to adopt the same criteria as last summer, which was the caza. Moreover, the candidate might not be ready for elections on the basis of the mohafaza, Ferzil said. Ferzil said that to avoid any ambiguity over the issue the government should publish a draft bill specifying that the caza will be adopted once again in Jbeil, as it is an extension of last year's ballot.

Speaker Nabih Berri reportedly said that he "respects the judicial authority and therefore respects its decisions." Berri's visitors quoted him as having stressed the need to settle the question of whether to adopt the caza or the mohafaza in the Jbeil by-election, to pre-empt accusations of constitutional violations.

He also reportedly said that parliament intends to elect a successor to the former head of the constitutional council Wajdi Mallat who resigned last month. The head of the council will be chosen during parliament's next plenary session scheduled for tomorrow and the day after. Berri pointed out that parliament will have to wait first for the constitutional council to choose by lottery the names of four of its members to be replaced along with Mallat. Berri explained to his visitors that if Mallat's successor was to be elected by parliament before the lottery, the successor's name could be among the members who will have to be replaced. The council is expected to select the four names within the next 24 hours. Among the ten council members, five are chosen by parliament and five appointed by the government.

- Interior minister Michel Murr yesterday visited the president, the speaker and premier Rafik Hariri and said the law stipulates that the by-elections have to be held within 60 days. After meeting with Hariri, Murr said "it is necessary that we hold consultations with the government's senior officials before the interior ministry begins preparing for new elections," a statement that he reiterated at parliament.

- Sources close to Hariri quoted him as saying that "Issuing such a decision proved the independence of the constitutional council and puts to an end the criticism directed at it," But the premier's words would have found little sympathy with the outgoing MPs yesterday.

- President Elias Hrawi emphasized May 20 on the role of the constitutional institutions and said he respects the rulings which proves independence of  the council. He was quoted saying "even though, preferred to not hold the by-elections, because a constitutional provision stipulates that the candidate who was the nearest in number can replace the challenged seat. He said his preference was due to the concern on the summer tourism and to save the administrative and security measures which should be taken to hold such by elections.

- Aside of the rulings which are now an inevitable reality and all parties said they accept, the last year election's contestants are preparing to run again. In north Lebanon the campaign started early and a consensus is impossible.

South Lebanon

- Israeli premier Netanyahu excluded an Israeli unilateral withdrawal from south Lebanon because that will lead to only transferring the borderline to north Israel and bring it close to the Jewish populated areas. Netanyahu called the Lebanese army to curb Hizbullah attacks and said "we want to reach a solution with Lebanon which is a bloody war battleground where our young boys and girls are victimized". He emphasized that Israel will remain in the security zone and will cooperate with the SLA until this problem is resolved and the security of the north Israel's villages is guaranteed".

Speaking before the Israeli knesset he said he noticed that the Syrians are lately lessening the activities of Hizbullah , but it is premature to say this is indicating Syria's wish to go back to the negotiation table.On  the three peace tracks, Netanyahu said he will not give Syria anything without return.

-The AMAL movement said one of its resistance fighters succeeded May 19 to destroy an Israeli naval vessel off the coast of Tyre in south Lebanon. Israel and security sources in south Lebanon said the fishing boat used in the suicide operation exploded in a ball of fire before reaching the target.  The suicide bombers was identified as Hisham Ahmad Fahs from Jibshit near Nabatieh. Israel said one of its patrol boats, 2 Kms off Tyre, spotted the fishing boat approaching and opened fire at 5.30 a.m.

- In another incident, three road side bombs exploded between Tyre and Hamra bridge in an area controlled by both the Lebanese army and UNIFIL. The blasts exploded at 4.00 a.m. did not cause any casualties. Security sources said the blasts were similar to three bombs exploded May 6 at Nabatieh, killing two civilians and injuring two others. Israel was blamed for the Nabatieh explosions after Hebrew markings were found on a fourth blast.

Palestinians Call For a Visa Rethink

- A Palestinian rights group yesterday called on parliament to abolish a decree imposing strict exit and entry visa requirements on Palestinian refugees, saying the reasons for the law no longer exist. "All nationalist deputies and those interested in human rights should be aware of the unhuman repercussions this decree has produced" Said a statement by the self-styled Palestinian affairs follow-up committee. Its grievances will be voiced in a petition due to be sent to Lebanon's deputies. The group said in its statement the decree was imposed in 1995 amid fears of a mass influx of Palestinians after Libya began expelling Palestinians. Libya has recently revoked its policy and has facilitated the living conditions for the Palestinians. The statement was issued after a meeting at Dar al-Nadwa cultural center in Hamra to commemorate the 49th anniversary of the 1948 expulsion of Palestinians.

- National News Agency said a delegation of donor countries including Japan, Holland and Egypt, will arrive shortly to Beirut to discuss with officials, academics and university lecturers, thoughts to resolve the Palestinian case. The delegation will visit the Palestinian camps to look into the situation on ground and see to extending social and human relief aids.

President Hrawi- Computer and Electronic Systems

-President Elias Hrawi said yesterday that Lebanon will not be able to play a leading role in the region and compete with Israel unless it keeps up with the information revolution. "With 16 years' suffering and its repercussions we cannot be expected to rebuild the country with slogans, but with hard work and innovation and an interaction with the technological revolution prevalent in this age, " Hrawi said at the opening of the computer and electronic trade systems conference at the College des Peres Antonins in Baabda.He said Lebanon will not be able to compete with Israel if it does not surpass it in adopting latest technologies. "If we can contribute to the technical advancement of the Middle East, Lebanon can reach stability and begin to enjoy its peace," he said. He insisted that this can only be achieved if internal problems are ended. "We did not stop the (civil) war to incite a war against the government because the war against the government is a war against the nation and its people." He added that the policies of the past are no longer appropriate to move Lebanon into the 21st century. "We have used the same words for the past 50 years: independence, national unity, balance of power and freedom. While people are struggling to prove this, political games are preventing these aims from being achieved," he said.

Lebanon's rejuvenation will occur when the government takes into account the interests of the whole nation and not just those of a particular sect or region. Hrawi commended the university on opening a computer faculty, coinciding with the conference. " With the advent of the competition between the university and the modern age we are living in. But a university must not be a museum of the past, but a factory for future innovation."


- Prime minister Rafic Hariri circles said he is due to visit Bkerke Thursday and meet Patriarch Sfair. It is first meeting after the visit of the Pope to Lebanon.

- Patriarch Sfair told visitors Monday the apostolic guidance should be thought over in order to apply, saying he expects the believers to make their suggestions in order to work together what should be done.

- Education minister Jean Obeid expected that the Pope visit will enhance the peace in Lebanon also the national unity and brotherhood. He said without the existing national unity and brotherhood the Pope would not have come to Lebanon, because usually he is not coming to a country where the minimum statehood is not existing.

Japanese Red Army five Trial

- Trial of Five Japanese Red Army suspects will open on June 9 for using false documents. They will be tried by Beirut's criminal court along with Omaya Abboud, a Lebanese nurse who was arrested with the five on Feb. 15. The Japanese suspects would be facing prison terms of at least seven years. They are not charged with any offenses related to their alleged membership of the Red Army. Abboud is charged of practicing acupuncture without a license.The six suspects underwent a preliminary court interrogation yesterday. their lawyers have said they had used false documents "for their safety and because they could not obtain Japanese passports". The Japanese  suspects expressed reservations over testimony they made in previous interrogations. They said they had to sign Arabic texts of documents they could not read or understand.

Lebanon- Media

- Parliament committee on media, post and telecommunications approved May 19 a draft bill proposed by the government on the coded broadcasts. The draft law will be placed over Parliament plenary session scheduled to take place tomorrow and Thursday. The committee chairman MP Abdel Latif Zein said the bill is the third element of the country's media law, following legislation on audio-visual and satellite broadcasts.

News In Brief

- News today said the disagreements are not on the presence of the Syrian army but on fixing a period of staying in Lebanon. The analysts questioned if this period is linked to the Israeli withdrawal or to achieving the comprehensive peace.

- Mexican foreign ministry official met in Beirut with S.G of the foreign ministry Zafer el Hassan. The Mexican official said he discussed here ways and methods to enhance bilateral relation, taking into consideration the large number of Mexicans hailing from Lebanese origin. He said the half million Lebanese community in his country was an essential key to the development of Mexico and played a linking role between the two countries. He also said that a Mexican delegation of businessmen is coordinating with Beirut chamber of commerce ways to enhance not only trade but diplomatic relations.

- Lebanon council of ministers session will be postponed until next week in view of the parliament plenary session scheduled for tomorrow and Thursday.  32 items were on the agenda including namely the issue of emigrants attaches which is still pending. The parliament plenary session will discuss 13 draft bills including namely creation of the industry ministry and paying due debts of the private hospitals.

- Kataeb president George Saadeh said the Constitutional Council's rulings were keeping face way out and a compromise on certain case. Saadeh argued why holding by elections and preoccupy people with such matter, since the government has proposed lately extending the parliament term for eight months under the pretext of saving the summer season. Saadeh said "once again we are facing by elections in three quarters of the country this summer. Saadeh announced that the party S.G Joseph Abu Khalil's resignation was accepted and Antoine Shader was elected his successor in unanimous vote and upon a proposal by Abu Khalil.

- MP Misbah el Ahdab accused the Lebanese foreign ministry of breaching the protocol by opening the airport honor saloon to rich people out of the others.

-General prosecutor Adnan Addoum and judge George Ghantous returned from a visit to Paris where they held judicial talks. News reports said they discussed legal issues, namely how France judiciary deal with cases of persons subject to international arrest warrants, the principle of  reciprocity in absence of a law on extradition between France and Lebanon. Judicial sources said the news over the former head of the Lebanese forces security chief Ghassan Touma is present in Paris was inaccurate. It said the French have shown understanding of Lebanon's demand to enforce international warrants against persons accused in delicate cases, but no tangible results would emerge soon, however, such issue is of political nature and could be variable according to circumstances.

Sports Round Up

- Saudi prince Khaled ben Talal ben Abdel Aziz said Saudi Hilal volleyball ranking second in the Asian clubs 9th championship was a first achievement scored ever by an Arab club, which had never ranked in any of the third leading ranks in the volleyball history.

-The Lebanese Olympic Committee said it will host for the first time in its history a meeting of the S.Gs of the Asian Olympic Committees numbered 43 and the Int. Olympic Support fund on 24th and 25th May at Commodore hotel in Beirut. The opening session will be chaired by Lebanon's education minister.

-Director of the sport department Zaid Khiami said $1.2mn has been put in disposal of the sports union to build and equip sports facilities and prepare teams, in prior of the Arab sports 8th tournament.

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