BEIRUT: Cabinet failed Monday to agree on a Parliamentary elections law proposed by Interior Minister Marwan Charbel and will resume discussions when it reconvenes Tuesday.
Ministerial sources told The Daily Star the law will likely be approved by a majority vote at Tuesday’s session after being discussed in greater detail. Ministers aligned to Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt’s parliamentary bloc are predicted to vote against adopting the law, the sources said. Jumblatt had repeatedly voiced his objection to a law based on proportional representation, fearing such a law would diminish his parliamentary bloc.
None of Charbel’s four proposals to dividing electoral districts was agreed upon during Monday’s session, the sources added. The proposals call for adopting 10-14 medium-sized districts.
President Michel Sleiman’s insistence on getting a draft law to Parliament is the main reason why the Cabinet is moving swiftly to adopt the law before leaving it to the legislature to decide its fate, the sources said.
Meanwhile, Free Patriotic Movement MP Alain Aoun told The Daily Star that the Bkirki committee tasked with drafting a new electoral law has informed Charbel of the proposal that won the approval of all Christian parties when discussed within the committee, which was formed under the patronage of Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai.
The formula, according to Aoun, adopts small districts with proportional representation and involves a few amendments to the law proposed by Charbel, namely in districts that are within the highly contested district of Mount Lebanon. Aoun said the formula will be forwarded to Rai in the “coming few days.”
The Bkirki committee proposal, if taken to Parliament, could stir a debate as legislators get ready to discuss Charbel’s draft law.
Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour proposed some amendments Monday related to expatriate voting, suggesting enabling expats to use Internet voting, as well as allocating some seats to expat communities on the condition that those elected would have to join their colleagues in Lebanon after being elected.
Internet voting, if allowed, would require making a major amendment to the law that requires all voters to be present in person to cast their ballots. As for allocating seats to expat communities, thus increasing the overall number of lawmakers, a very unlikely constitutional amendment would be required to carry out such plan.
Information Minister Walid Daouk told reporters after the session Monday that Sleiman has urged the ministers to speed up the process of adopting a new electoral law.
“The law should have been ready at least a year ahead of the elections, but since we are less than a year away from the polls, the president stressed that better law the come late than never.”
On the security front, Daouk said Sleiman has praised the Lebanese Army and security forces for arresting a gang that was allegedly involved in a number of bank robberies, in addition to the arrest of a terrorist cell whose members are being interrogated in the custody of the Lebanese Army.
Asked if he was referring to the cell arrested in the coastal Chouf town of Rmeileh south of Beirut, he said: “Yes, I believe it is the Rmeileh cell.”
The Army arrested three individuals after a raid of their residence in Remeileh revealed a stash of weapons, it said in a statement Saturday.
One of those arrested on charges of spying for Israel is a janitor who works at a school in the Rmeileh. A security source in south Lebanon identified the suspect as Hanna B.