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Berri backs formation of panel on election law

  • Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri listens to speeches during a session at the parliament in Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, April 19, 2012. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: Speaker Nabih Berri was reported Wednesday to have voiced support for the formation of a parliamentary subcommittee to follow up discussion of a new electoral system and the size of districts.

Meanwhile, Tripoli MP and Finance Minister Mohammad Safadi said he would not run in next year’s parliamentary elections.

Speaking during his weekly meeting with lawmakers at his residence in Ain al-Tineh Wednesday, Berri was quoted by MPs as saying that the current debate over a new election law should be kept away from political one-upmanship and escalation.

According to the MPs, Berri also stressed the need for the joint parliamentary committees to pursue discussion of the other articles of an election law in order to gain time.

The MPs quoted Berri as rejecting a proposal by March 14 Christian parties for small electoral districts, saying that it was “tailored to serve some [politicians] rather than serve the interest of Christians.”

Recalling his stance that he will not reject any election law agreed on by the Christians, Berri was quoted as saying that “efforts will be made toward finding a formula that can gain the understanding of all the parties.”

Berri’s remarks came a day after MPs from the joint parliamentary committees resumed discussion of at least three draft electoral laws amid a widening gulf between the opposition March 14 coalition and the Hezbollah-led March 8 bloc over which legislation best guarantees fair representation for all the parties in next year’s parliamentary elections.

The committees are expected to address the government’s draft election law in detail Thursday after three sessions of bickering over the broad outlines, but there are already disputes over which article to start with.

Speaking to reporters after chairing Tuesday’s Joint Committees session, Deputy Speaker Farid Makari said MPs are divided over whether to start with discussing two controversial articles or move to others and put the divisive articles to a vote in the General Assembly. The articles discuss whether elections would be held based on a proportional representation system or a winner-takes-all system as well as the size of the districts.

The government’s draft law would divide Lebanon into 13 medium-sized districts based on proportional representation. Also on the agenda is a proposal presented by the March 14 Christian parties that would divide Lebanon into 50 small districts under a winner-takes-all-system.

Another forwarded draft law is that of MP Michel Aoun’s Change and Reform parliamentary bloc, whereby every sect elects its own MPs, under a proportional representation system and with the adoption of Lebanon as a single district. It is similar to a draft law proposed by the Orthodox Gathering.

The government’s draft law has been rejected by the March 14 coalition, which argues that it was designed to serve the interests of Hezbollah.

The Future parliamentary bloc of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri has expressed its support for a draft election law that would divide Lebanon into small districts, in reference to that of the March 14 Christian parties.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah’s Minister of State for Administrative Reform Mohammad Fneish reiterated his party’s support for the government’s draft law based proportional representation.

Fneish said there is a popular rejection within the main political camps in Lebanon of the 1960 election law, which adopts the qada as an electoral district and is based on a winner-takes-all system. The law was used in the 2009 parliamentary elections.

“Proportionality gives everyone their rights to representation,” he said during a dialogue on “Hezbollah’s internal challenges.”

Future MP Ahmad Fatfat said a final decision on a new election law hinged on the stance of MP Walid Jumblatt’s parliamentary bloc.

“Jumblatt was clear in rejecting a system of proportional representation. He might be comfortable with the 1960 election, but everyone realizes that we now need different proposals and we must move forward toward a new law,” Fatfat told the Voice of Lebanon radio station.

Lebanese Forces MP Antoine Zahra also reiterated his party’s support for the March 14 proposal for small electoral districts.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 04, 2012, on page 3.
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