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Rai says Bkirki to study proposed draft election laws

Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai heads a Muslim-Christian summit in Bkirki, Monday, Sept. 24, 2012. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: Christian parliamentarians will study the three proposed draft election laws and choose one that best represents everyone, Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai said Sunday, ruling out a return to the 1960s law used in the 2009 parliamentary elections.

“Maronites are in agreement and announce that they will discuss the three draft election laws with their fellow parliamentarians and will choose one that best represents everyone,” Rai told reporters at the Rafik Hariri International Airport before he left for Hungary.

“We [the Maronite Church] do not have an opinion on an election law but what we do is bring together Christian parties to agree on one,” he added.

Rai left Sunday for a three-day visit to Hungary where he is expected to meet Church and government officials. He will also visit Rome and participate in the Synod workshop for Archbishops headed by Pope Benedict XVI.

The country’s predominantly Christian parties are divided over the best electoral law to ensure Christian representation in Lebanon.

There are four electoral laws under study in the joint parliamentary committees: a proposal by the March 14 coalition dividing Lebanon to 50 constituencies based on a winner-takes-all system; a draft law proposed by the Free Patriotic Movement allowing each sect to elect its own lawmakers by proportional representation, and the Cabinet’s own draft law dividing Lebanon into 13 medium-sized districts based on proportional representation.

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

Rai also reiterated the Maronite Church’s opposition to the use of 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.

“For the sake of Lebanon and in a bid to step out of what we are in today [of divisions], we should not return to the 1960s law but find a new law that guarantees representation allowing citizens to elect their MP and hold them accountable,” Rai said.

“Given that we want to live in diversity and coexistence with mutual respect and equality without any pressure on any party, we should not return to the 1960s law,” he added.

After March 14 handed over its own proposal to Parliament earlier this week, Rai convened the Bkirki Committee Friday but with no tangible results.

Speaking to An-Nahar in an interview published Sunday, MP Butros Harb, an independent affiliated with March 14, said the March 8 coalition, the majority in government, insists on adopting an election law based on proportional representation.

"During Bkirki's committee two days ago we saw determination by March 8 to adopt proportional representation on the pretext that it guarantees better representation for Christians than the small-sized districts,” Harb said, adding that a committee of experts within Bkirki will be formed to compare the two.

Harb said his coalition was flexible and ready to discuss any election proposal that guarantees fair representation.

The Future Movement, a main component of March 14, have voiced opposition to proportional representation in general and the Cabinet’s proposal in particular, saying it benefits Hezbollah’s interests.

Meanwhile, MP Walid Jumblatt has voiced support for the 1960s law, rejecting proportional representation as well as the March 14 proposal.

 

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