Lebanon News

Geagea defends March 14 draft electoral law

Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea speaks during a press conference in Maarab, Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012. (The Daily Star/Aldo Ayoub, HO)

BEIRUT: Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea defended Friday the March 14 coalition’s draft electoral law, describing it as the best option for Christians in the country, and voiced optimism that it would be adopted.

“Not only does this draft provide the best representation but it also includes a series of reform items including the independent committee overseeing elections, pre-printed ballots, organized election financing and media campaigns,” Geagea told reporters at his residence in Meerab, Keseruan.

March 14 handed a draft electoral law that divides Lebanon to 50 constituencies based on a winner-takes-all system over to Parliament’s general secretariat.

The proposal will be studied in joint parliamentary committees along with three other draft laws; one approved by Cabinet dividing Lebanon into 13 medium-sized districts based on proportional representation and another by the Free Patriotic Movement which allows each sect to elect its own lawmakers by proportional representation.

The final bill was proposed by Future Movement MP Nabil De Freij and aims at increasing the number of seats in Parliament.

During his news conference, Geagea said the draft law eliminates the spirit of division and sectarianism, contrary to what some critics have claimed.

“When every voter gets their right, we no longer face sectarianism or division,” he said, explaining that small districts allow wider representation than medium-sized ones.

“In Zahle [east Lebanon] for example, Hezbollah supporters feel that they are not represented, and that kind of sentiment strengthens the spirit of division,” Geagea added.

He also added that small districts provide average citizens with the chance to run for elections without having to forms political alliances or have great financial capabilities.

“There are 10 parliamentarians for the Baalbek-Hermel district, how much does one need in terms of financial and political influence to be able to run against an alliance?” he asked.

“With small districts, however, anyone can run,” the LF leader said, adding that such a draft law would also make it easier to hold representatives accountable.

As for MP Walid Jumblatt’s opposition to all proposed draft laws including the March 14 one, Geagea said the Progressive Socialist Party leader was open to discussion and negotiations.

Jumblatt and his party have voiced support for the 1960s law, which was used in the 2009 polls and adopts the administrative unit of the qada as the so-called “small” electoral district.

Most of Lebanon’s political parties, including Geagea’s alliance, have rejected the return to that law.

“If there was a minimum of responsibility, seriousness and national conscience, we would adopt a new law which we are in desperate need of in the next few weeks,” Geagea said.

MPs in the joint parliamentary committees have decided to meet twice a week in a bid to finish discussion as soon as possible, giving the Interior Ministry sufficient time to plan the 2013 parliamentary elections according to the new law.

Geagea also joined President Michel Sleiman in stressing the importance of the expatriate vote, slamming the Foreign Ministry over delays in implementing the proper mechanism.

“The Free Patriotic Movement [FPM] ministers in that government should place enough pressure on the Foreign Ministry to take practical steps to allow expatriates to vote,” he said.

Meanwhile, FPM MP Ibrahim Kanaan said Christians should agree on a single draft electoral law that best guarantees representation for their community.

“Christians should come up with one draft electoral law and understand that time is against us,” Kanaan told a local television station.

“We should remain distant from any maneuvers and to commit to one proposal that Christians agree on,” he added.





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