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Lebanon News

Committees to tackle Cabinet’s draft election law

MP Alain Aoun arrives at the Parliament in Beirut, Tuesday, April 17, 2012. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)

BEIRUT: Parliament’s joint committees will convene Thursday for a second time to discuss a draft election law forwarded by the government, while Christian parties of the March 14 coalition postponed forwarding their own proposal to the legislature.The session will be held one week after the previous session, which hardly tackled the draft law as March 14 MPs argued that the government’s proposal was missing Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour’s signature. The draft law would divide Lebanon into 13 medium-sized districts based on a proportional representation system.

Also on the session’s agenda is a proposal, forwarded by Alain Aoun and Nehmatallah Abi Nasr from Michel Aoun’s Change and Reform parliamentary bloc, under which every sect would elect its own MPs under a proportional representation system, adopting the entirety of Lebanon as a single district.

Speaking to The Daily Star, Alain Aoun said the session was unlikely to produce results, adding that March 14 MPs would come up with fresh ways to delay discussions after Mansour signs the proposal.

“They will come up with new excuses in a bid to buy time,” he said, arguing that the March 14 coalition wants the elections, set for June, to be held under the current law. The current legislation, a version of the 1960 law, adopts the qada as an electoral district in a winner-takes-all system.

Aoun said his bloc forwarded its proposal after the current law was criticized during meetings of the Bkirki committee for having Christians elect 35 of 64 Christians MPs.

Aoun said his bloc’s draft law would allow Christians to elect all their 64 MPs, adding that his bloc would work to convince Hezbollah and Amal to support the proposal, which is opposed by all Muslim parties.

Meanwhile, Christian parties of the March 14 coalition postponed forwarding their draft election law to Parliament to continue discussions and drum up support for it.

“We will not propose a draft law just for the sake of doing it; we want to garner the strongest Christian support possible for it and make sure it is backed by other groups as well so that we don’t go back to the 1960 law,” a source from the Kataeb (Phalange) Party told The Daily Star.

The source said the draft law would divide Lebanon into 50 small districts based on a winner-takes-all system.

“There are no longer the 61 districts as first proposed by the Lebanese Forces,” he said, adding each district would have at least two or three MPs. Under the LF proposal, some districts would have had just one lawmaker.

“Small details have yet to be discussed,” said the source, adding that the draft law would ensue that 56 out of 64 Christian MPs are elected by Christians and that the draft law proposed by Aoun’s bloc stood no chance of being endorsed by Parliament.

Kataeb MP Sami Gemayel, Batroun MP Butros Harb and LF MP George Adwan had been expected forward the draft law to Parliament Wednesday.

But the draft law has yet to be endorsed by Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt, a prerequisite for receiving the support of the Future Movement of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri and vice versa, sources said.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday at his Hazmieh residence, Harb said that the Kataeb party and the LF would make their proposal after negotiations with their allies in the March 14 coalition, “mainly the Future Movement, which already supports a draft law based on small districts.”

Harb noted that the March 14 coalition would give negotiations with Jumblatt a chance, saying: “Deliberations are under way with him to agree on a formula that unites us.”

“It [the draft law] is comprehensive and includes 100 articles, a voting mechanism, preprinted ballots; it ensures the right of expatriate voting and the means to protect the electoral process by forming an independent committee to oversee the elections,” Harb said.

Separately, Aoun said that Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai might call members of the Bkirki committee for a meeting in a bid to secure an agreement on an election draft law from rival Christian parties. “The patriarch might call us for a meeting, if he does then we will attend,” Aoun said.

Rai discussed developments related to the draft law in separate meetings with Gemayel and Aoun Wednesday. Aoun was accompanied by former Minister Youssef Saade, from Suleiman Franjieh’s Marada Movement.

The Bkirki committee has been beset by divisions recently. LF leader Samir Geagea has accused the FPM of trying to back out of the Bkirki committee’s agreement to give priority to a draft law with small districts under a winner-takes-all system.

Aoun maintains that the committee selected two draft laws.

The first, which was proposed by the Orthodox Gathering, allows each sect to elect its own lawmakers by proportional representation. In the second, Lebanon would be divided into medium-sized districts based on proportional representation.

Speaker Nabih Berri said that any election law should be in line with the Taif Accord and should be passed as soon as possible.

Hezbollah and Amal prefer the adoption of the entirety of Lebanon as a single district under a proportional representation system. But like the Future Movement, the two parties have not forwarded their own proposals.

Sources close to Berri said that the speaker’s meeting with former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora Monday could herald an agreement on an election draft law between Hezbollah, Amal and the Future Movement in a bid to avoid Sunni-Shiite strife.

For his part, Siniora said March 14 was “likely to win” the elections, “given changes in Lebanon and the world.”

But Siniora said his bloc would not stop extending a hand to Berri or Hezbollah, a party he said is “tense” because of the situation in the region.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 27, 2012, on page 3.

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