Lebanon News

MP Fattoush proposes urgent draft law to renew Parliament’s term

FILE - MP Nicolas Fattoush sits in Parliament in Beirut, Wednesday, June 3, 2015. (The Daily Star/Khalil Hassan)

BEIRUT: Zahle MP Nicolas Fattoush Tuesday proposed an urgent draft law to renew the Parliament's mandate for a year, local media reported, sparking a contentious debate on the matter.

Fattoush presented a draft proposal to Parliament’s Secretariat to extend the legislative body’s mandate until June 2018.

The Parliament’s Secretariat met later in the day, assigning a new legislative session for Thursday.

After the meeting, MP Serge Torsarkissian spoke to the press, addressing the Cabinet's reluctance to make a decision on a new electoral law and the technical extension of parliamentary terms.

"Any suggestion for a new law should come from the Cabinet. ... we [the Parliament] are here waiting for them to make a decision," Torsarkissian said.

He said that the parliamentary extension is being considered to "protect the people."

"Each party has its position on the issue, and we are waiting to see who accepts and who rejects the extension," he said.

Later Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Ghassan Hasbani said he rejected any extension to the, saying that the Lebanese Forces party was seeking to reach an agreement with rivals on a suitable electoral law.

Hasbani's spoke after a meeting with President Michel Aoun at Baabda Palace in presence of LF Information Minister Melhem Riachi.

"Yesterday's [Cabinet] session allowed a general discussion to take place from all sides," Hasbani said. "The committee will provide a draft that will be discussed and agreed on, which is the next step."

"We will do this as soon as possible," he added.

The two LF officials also met with Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, the head of the Free Patriotic Movement, to discuss the development.

"There's solidarity and coordination between the LF and FPM," Riachi said after the talks, urging the agreement on a new electoral law that reflects balance.

The Cabinet, headed by Aoun, Monday decided to form a ministerial committee tasked with drafting an electoral law.

The committee, which will be led by Prime Minister Saad Hariri, will hold its first meeting Tuesday. It is the latest official attempt to speed up a deal on a voting system and avert the much-feared parliamentary vacuum.

President Aoun Tuesday also criticized the attempt to extend the Parliament's mandate.

"An extension without agreeing on a new vote law or its broad lines will not benefit Lebanon and its democratic system," he said via Twitter.

"There's still a chance to agree on a new electoral law [to govern] parliamentary elections, which ensures the correct representation of the Lebanese people fairly and equally."

Aoun warned that any decision other than agreeing on a balanced law would put the people in a standoff with the Constitutional institutions.

Bassil said during a news conference that his party will not approve the extension of MPs’ terms, extending hand to all rivals to agree on a new vote law and abstain from such an attempt.

He described the matter as a "political assassination" and "shameful."

The FPM chief called on Hezbollah and the Future Movement, along with all other parties, to stand by democracy and refrain from such a move.

"We have several options to stop the extension of the Parliament's mandate. We will not go into deals the country's main foundations and democracy," he said, adding that FPM lawmakers will not attend Thursday's extension session.

The Foreign Minister said that he exhausted all options by proposing several vote law initiatives.

He addressed the Lebanese affirming that the "will have a new electoral law despite the delay."

"Our duty compels us to challenge the extension with all available means guaranteed by the Constitution."

A political source told The Daily Star Monday that MPs are expected approve a new extension of the legislative body’s term during the next Parliament session as part of what a parliamentary source called “extension of necessity” to avert a vacuum.

The Kataeb Party announced that a protest will be held simultaneously with Thursday's legislative session.

Speaker Nabih Berri, Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk have spoken of a “technical” extension of Parliament’s term, saying this was needed to finalize logistical preparations for the elections.

Parliamentary elections were originally scheduled to take place between May 21 and June 21, but deadlock over a vote law would lead to a delay of the polls.

Parliament has extended its mandate twice, in 2013 and 2014, over security fears.

Previously, President Michel Aoun dispelled fears of vacuum in Parliament, whose extended mandate expires on June 20.

Prime Minister Hariri held talks with Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt, but left without making any statement.

Former Health Minister Wael Abu Faour, who attended the meeting, said that talks focused on electoral law proposals.

“I want to reassure [the Lebanese] that there will be no vacuum. A return to the Constitution and the decisions of the Constitutional Council [are indications of] this. Therefore, there is no reason to talk about vacuum,” he said.





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