BEIRUT: The Free Patriotic Movement dismissed Friday former Prime Minister Saad Hariri's four-point initiative to end the deadlock over an electoral law for the upcoming elections as the head of subcommittee that is studying electoral proposals said the plan deserved consideration.
“What Hariri announced yesterday [Thursday] was not an initiative, but general principles,” FPM MP Ibrahim Kanaan said.
In a wide-ranging interview with LBCI TV Thursday night at his residence in Paris, Hariri put forward a small-district proposal to govern the June parliamentary elections, called for the establishment of a senate, the adoption of provisions in the Taif Accord regarding expanded administrative decentralization and that the “Baabda Declaration” become part of the Constitution’s preamble.
During the interview, Hariri also blasted the Orthodox Gathering law as a regressive draft that would only divide the Lebanese by insisting individual sects vote for their respective lawmakers.
Kanaan criticized Friday Hariri’s initiative as offering “nothing new.”
“Hariri’s talk about small districts is just a general principle,” he told the Kataeb-run Voice of Lebanon radio station (VDL).
The FPM, an ally of Hezbollah in the March 8 coalition, backs the controversial Orthodox Gathering law that projects Lebanon as a single district where individual sects vote for their members of Parliament under a system of proportional representation.
Kataeb MP Nadim Gemayel, for his part, hailed Hariri, saying the Future Movement leader’s plan was fairly similar to that of March 14 coalition.
"The ideas proposed by [Hariri] reflect the first clauses of the proposal put forth by March 14," Gemayel told a local television channel.
"Administrative decentralization is our main objective,” Gemayel added.
“Small districts also secure true Christian representation,” he added.
March 14 MP Butros Harb also praised Hariri for his "bold" initiative.
“Hariri’s well-developed proposal demonstrates his willpower and courage – something that we can depend on ... to change the society from a close-minded sectarian mentality to a state of national openness and a secular and civic state,” Harb said in a statement Friday.
"I praise Hariri for his daring and bold stance and I hope it won’t be stoned [to death] because it was launched by Saad Hariri or because it does not serve the interests of certain groups that put personal interests above Lebanon," he added.
Harb said Hariri’s proposal “must be taken seriously and addressed responsibly.”
Parliamentarians are struggling to reach an agreement on a united voting system.
Politicians were granted Wednesday an additional two weeks to agree on a new electoral law using the hybrid proposal, which is gaining momentum among rival groups after they failed to find consensus over alternatives.
The joint parliamentary committees convened under speaker Nabih Berri Wednesday without Future Movement MPs and agreed to extend the work of the subcommittee to discuss a hybrid law combining both proportionality and a winner-takes-all system.
MP Robert Ghanem, the chairman of the subcommittee, said Friday that Hariri’s proposal deserved consideration.
“[Hariri’s] initiative deserves to be taken into account, particularly since we are heading toward a national crisis that requires a radical solution,” Ghanem told LBCI TV.
In response to a question, Ghanem said Hariri’s plan should go through a referral process.
“First of all the plan has to be presented to Parliament in the form of a draft law so that Speaker Nabih Berri in turn can refer it to the subcommittee for discussion,” Ghanem said.
Hariri’s proposal also received support from March 14 MP Marwan Hamade, who praised it for stressing the need for holding the elections on time.
“It is a range of ideas to keep the doors for a solution open,” Hamade told VDL.
Lebanon’s 2009 parliamentary elections were administered under the 1960 law, a qada-based, winner-takes-all system that has been rejected by most parties in the country.
While enjoying Christian support, the Orthodox Gathering is opposed by the president, prime minister, the Progressive Socialist Party as well as the Future Movement and independent Christian MPs.
President Michel Sleiman, who backs the government’s 13-district electoral proposal based on proportional representation, has vowed to challenge the Orthodox Gathering draft should it be endorsed by Parliament.
If the subcommittee fails to agree on the hybrid law, joint committees will begin discussing the Orthodox proposal, which has gained a rare consensus among Christian political parties in the country.
The hybrid proposal calls for employing both proportional representation and a winner-takes-all system.