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March 8: opposition stonewalling electoral law

A general view of the Lebanese Parliament in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, April 17, 2012. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: March 8 lawmakers accused opposition MPs of forcing a loss of quorum in a bid to waste time and evade discussion of a draft election law at Wednesday’s joint parliamentary session.

Dismissing the claims, March 14 MPs argued that the draft law did not bear the required signature of Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour.

“At the beginning of the session, [March 14 MPs] said that the draft law forwarded by the Cabinet does not bear the signature of the foreign minister,” Baabda MP Alain Aoun, from Michel Aoun’s Change and Reform parliamentary bloc, told The Daily Star.

“It is clear that they do not want to discuss an electoral draft law ... they did not show seriousness,” added Aoun, who attended the session.

He said the opposition was trying to buy time so that the current election law is used in the parliamentary elections scheduled for next June. The current law, on which the 2009 parliamentary elections were held, uses the qada as the electoral district under a winner-takes-all system.

When March 8 MPs insisted on discussing the draft law, most March 14 lawmakers walked out of the session, causing a loss of quorum, Aoun said.

But Akkar MP Khaled Zahraman, from the Future parliamentary bloc of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, said the March 14 coalition had no intention of holding up a new electoral law.

“This is not true, we are ready to discuss this draft law in sessions held by Parliament’s joint committees and we will vote in line with our convictions,” said Zahraman.

The March 14 coalition has expressed its opposition to the draft law sent from the Cabinet, saying it was designed to serve the interests of Hezbollah. The draft law would divide the country into 13 medium-sized districts based on a proportional representation system. It also calls for electing lawmakers to represent Lebanese expats. Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt opposes the draft law as well.

“We have no intention to waste time, especially as there is no problem in voting down this draft law in Parliament, as there is a clear majority opposing it,” added Zahraman.

March 14 MPs brought up Mansour’s missing signature during the meeting, he said.

Speaking to reporters following the session, Deputy Speaker Farid Makari said that the session had been postponed until Sept. 27.

“The session was postponed ... for further study in a bid to reach a common ground that allows holding parliamentary elections based on a modern law that guarantees fair representation for all Lebanese,” Makari said.

Responding to claims that the March 14 coalition intentionally caused a loss of quorum, Makari said lawmakers from various blocs walked out of the session, as it had dragged on.

Makari added that relevant ministers should attend the next session.

“We understood the circumstances of some ministers [who did not attend] today, as the session was initially scheduled for Thursday.”

Makari said he had spoken to Speaker Nabih Berri about Mansour’s missing signature. “Given the importance of this topic, it is necessary that it [the draft law] bears the signature of the foreign minister,” he said.

“This does not require returning the draft law back to the Cabinet, but the foreign minister will be asked to sign it and it will be ready Thursday,” Makari added.

Separately, Mustafa Alloush, a Future Movement official, said that the movement would not support any draft election law that its allies do not accept.

“We support the draft law which suits our allies and provides fair representation,” Alloush told reporters after visiting Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea at his Maarab residence.

“The Future Movement insists on parity as stipulated by the Taif Accord.

“The main idea is small districts, but the size of these districts ... all these details need to be discussed,” said Alloush.

The Future Movement has expressed its general backing for one of the proposals suggested by the Bkirki Committee.

Under the proposal, the country would be divided into 61 districts based on a winner-takes-all system.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 20, 2012, on page 3.

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