Lebanon News

MPs suspend subcommittee talks over electoral law

Lebanese lawmakers attend a meeting at the Parliament in Beirut, Tuesday, April 23, 2013. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: Lawmakers decided Tuesday to suspend the work of the subcommittee discussing a new electoral after MPs failed to reach an agreement on a hybrid proposal seen as the only viable law for the country.

Some members of the subcommittee asked Speaker Nabih Berri to convene a parliamentary session vote on and pass a new law for the upcoming elections scheduled on June 19.

The polls will most likely be postponed even if MPs agree on a proposal. Caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel has said he needed six months to prepare for parliamentary elections with a new law.

“After discovering that the gaps are still very wide, I did not think it was feasible to continue with the subcommittee meeting in its framework as a consultative body,” MP Robert Ghanem, the chairman of the subcommittee, told reporters.

“But that doesn’t mean that members cannot discuss with each other and consult with their leaders ... We could resume meetings if anything new surfaces,” he added.

In the case that Parliament fails to reach a new law before May 19, Ghanem said the “1960 law would become legally in effect.”

Parliament agreed last month to amend the 1960 law and suspend candidacies for the polls until May 19 to allow lawmakers more time to reach a new proposal.

Despite the suspension of the meetings, Lebanese Forces MP George Adwan said his party would continue its consultations with the various political groups during the three-week period before May 19 “in order to reach an understanding and consensus and take it to Parliament’s general secretariat.”

“Last week, as you know, I said we would suspend our participation in the committee if a progressive step wasn’t taken to remain credible in front of the public,” Adwan said.

“We will hold bilateral, trilateral or even quarterly meetings if need be to reach some kind of an understanding,” he added, calling on Berri to hold a legislative session before the May deadline to put the draft laws up to vote if no consensus was reached.

Adwan, who had asked MPs last week to put forth their notes and reservations on Berri’s hybrid law that would be discussed this Tuesday, also said that “only a consensus law can guarantee the elections.”

Free Patriotic Movement MP Alain Aoun who echoed Adwan’s call for a parliamentary session, said his party awaits lawmakers to reach a new law “and then we will evaluate it on the basis of whether it guarantee sound Christian representation.”

“Up until now there has not been a single draft law based on a hybrid proposal that received the support of more than two parties,” Aoun said.

“We don’t have any conditions on the number of districts, or districting itself. Our only condition is that any consensus proposal should secure fair Christian representation ... based on the principle of partnership [between Muslims and Christians],” he said.

MP Akram Shehayeb from the National Struggle Front bloc as well as Future MP Ahmad Fatfat and MP Serge Torsarkissian accused some parties of stalling discussion over a new electoral law, referring to the March 8 coalition.

Shehayeb said his party submitted his own observations on Berri’s proposal, saying Tuesday’s sessions brought discussion back to square one as he voiced support for a “consensus law.”





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