BEIRUT: Prime Minister Najib Mikati said Thursday that the March 14 coalition’s negative reactions to an electoral draft law his Cabinet approved earlier this week were inappropriate, as Parliament still needs to discuss the law before its endorsement.
“All the accusations we heard are inappropriate and are only unjustified uproar,” Mikati said.
“You watched the news conference of [Lebanese Forces leader] Samir Geagea yesterday [Wednesday] when he said the Cabinet’s draft law is better than the 1960 law but that it needs two additional items,” Mikati told the new members of the board of the Journalists Union who visited him at the Grand Serail along with its newly elected president Elias Aoun.
“Great, let Parliament do what it deems suitable and divide the electoral districts as it wants if they [March 14 MPs] do not like divisions we proposed,” he added.
Mikati said his Cabinet fulfilled its commitment to approve a new electoral draft law, adding that Parliament had the final say.
“If there are good intentions, then an electoral law combining proportional representation and winner-take-all systems which provides fair representation can be reached [in Parliament],” said Mikati, pointing to Geagea’s proposal about a possible draft law adopting proportional representation and the districts of the 1960 law.
The March 14 coalition strongly criticized a draft electoral law approved by the Cabinet Tuesday, arguing it was devised to match the interests of Hezbollah and the rest of its March 8 allies.
The draft law is based on proportional representation and divides the country into 13 districts for the 2013 polls, cutting the number of districts to almost half of what the current electoral law stipulates. It states that each candidate list should include both sexes but specifies no quotas.
Rival Lebanese leaders adopted the current law, which is based on the 1960 winner-take-all law, by consensus in Doha in May 2008.
Mikati said that as long as he was prime minister, delaying the 2013 parliamentary polls was out of question.
The premier said that the formula reached in the draft law regarding expatriate voting was the best, adding that he would not oppose a better one if endorsed by Parliament.
Cabinet decided to dedicate an additional three Christian seats and three Muslim seats for Lebanese expatriates.
Geagea criticized the move as disregarding expatriates’ connections to their towns and villages in Lebanon.
In remarks Wednesday, Geagea questioned the Cabinet’s intentions in dividing governorates of Beirut and south Lebanon into two districts, while dividing all other governorates into three districts.
“Yes, proportional representation could have worked, but not with 13 districts, with 15 districts,” Geagea said Wednesday.
For his part, President Michel Sleiman said Thursday he would remain committed to proportional representation in the draft law which was approved by the Cabinet.
“It was the demand of wide segments of the Lebanese, including some of those who are today expressing opposition to the entire draft law or to parts of it, which is a democratic right,” the president told visitors at his summer residence in Beiteddine.
Sleiman voiced hope that Parliament would discuss the electoral districts while tackling the draft law so that it received the endorsement of the highest number of MPs.
He also highlighted the need to boost the female quota so that women could have an effective role in politics and public affairs.
Sleiman said that if the number of expatriates was not enough for them to have an independent district as the draft law stipulates, “then this issue could be studied again without abandoning the principle of letting them participate in the [2013 parliamentary] elections according to the formula which would be agreed upon.”
Sleiman hoped that Parliament would pass the electoral draft law as soon as possible to get ready to discuss legislation implementing administrative decentralization.
Meanwhile, March 14 MPs continued their attack on the electoral draft law Thursday.
Beirut MP Michel Pharaon, from the Future parliamentary bloc, said the division of districts in Beirut according to the draft law represents an assault on the Beirut neighborhoods of Ashrafieh, Rmeil and Saifi.
“Dividing the districts in Jezzine, Kesrouan, Metn and Sidon aims at placing them under the tutelage of the March 8 coalition and represents a provocation for Christians and Sunnis,” he said during a discussion session.
All ministers in the March 8 dominated Cabinet voted for the electoral draft law except for those from Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt’s bloc, who opposed it.
Jumblatt argues that proportional representation aims at curbing his political influence.
Minister of State Ali Qanso, from the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, also opposed the draft legislation.