Lebanon News

Future Movement to present draft electoral law

Former prime minister Saad Hariri during the interview. (The Daily Star/HO)

BEIRUT: The Future Movement will present to Parliament Monday a draft electoral law based on an initiative announced last week by former Prime Minister Saad Hariri for June’s parliamentary elections, a lawmaker from the movement said. “The draft law would divide the country into less than 40 districts,” MP Ahmad Fatfat told The Daily Star Sunday, adding that the proposal would adopt the same electoral districts, or qadas, used in the 2009 polls in some Lebanese districts, while dividing others.

“These [that will be divided] are big qadas like Tripoli, Beirut, Chouf, Metn, Baalbek-Hermel and Zahle,” Fatfat said. He explained that there would be between two and five seats in every district, “There will be a fair distribution of seats and voters [in these districts].”

Fatfat, who plans to detail the draft law in a news conference in Parliament Monday, said Future Movement MPs would also present to Parliament, on the same day, a draft law to amend the Constitution to allow the formation of a senate in line with Hariri’s initiative.

Also Monday, a parliamentary subcommittee tasked with achieving consensus for the electoral law among rival groups will resume its meetings in Parliament. The subcommittee, whose members are from various political groups, will continue discussing a draft law which combines proportional representation with a winner-takes-all-system.

Hariri’s initiative, which he announced last week, would divide Lebanon into small districts based on a winner-takes-all system and recommends the establishment of a senate, as outlined in the 1989 Taif Accord, comprised of the country’s various religious figures, in a bid to allay Christian concerns over representation.

Hariri criticized the draft law proposed by the Orthodox Gathering, saying it would further divide the Lebanese. The Orthodox proposal would enable every sect to elect its own MPs, under a proportional representation system with the entirety of Lebanon as a single district.

Last year, Christian parties from the opposition presented Parliament with a draft law that would divide the country into 50 small districts under a winner-takes-all system. The Future Movement supported the draft law, but Hariri did not specify the number of small districts in his proposal last week.

Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt said during a meeting last week in Paris that he did not agree with Hariri on his proposal.

Speaking during an interview with a local TV station over the weekend, Jumblatt said he did not agree with Hariri on the small-district proposal or the 50-district draft law.

The two leaders opposed the Orthodox proposal, saying it contradicted coexistence and the National Pact, according to Jumblatt, who said Hariri’s call for establishing a senate is “excellent,” and an “advanced move.”

“A senate should be established as stipulated by the Taif Accord because it creates balance,” he added.

“Every [political] group is trying to eliminate the other through proposed draft laws, but no one in Lebanon can eliminate the other; thus, a consensus should be reached,” he said. “We will hold talks with all [political] groups over the matter. We are open to discussing all proposals but do not accept [the option of] elimination.”

Energy Minister Gebran Bassil, from Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement, said Hariri’s proposal gives Muslims supremacy over Christians.

“The small-district draft law as proposed is very bad,” Bassil said during a news conference at his residence in Batroun. “According to the law we agreed on in Doha, Christians elect 17 MPs [out of their 64 lawmakers] but only 11 in the 50-district law,” he added.

Bassil said that whoever wants to address Christians’ concerns should give powers to the president.

“The only positive thing in Hariri’s remarks is that he will not boycott elections if the Orthodox proposal is passed,” Bassil added.

The FPM, Marada Movement, Kataeb Party, Lebanese Forces, Hezbollah and the Amal Movement support the Orthodox proposal.

The Christian parties argue that this draft law provides them the fairest representation, as it allows them to elect their 64 MPs in Parliament.

The Future Movement and PSP oppose the Orthodox proposal and proportional representation, which Hezbollah insists should govern June’s polls.

The 2009 parliamentary polls were held based on an amended version of the 1960 law, agreed upon in the 2008 Doha Accord.

Nabatieh MP Mohammad Raad, the head of Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc, said groups calling for an electoral law based on a winner-takes-all system are only concerned about their interests.

“Everyone calling for an election law based on a winner-takes-all system seeks individual interests rather than fair representation in this country,” Raad said Sunday during a ceremony in the south. “The law that provides fair representation is the one based on proportional representation because it does not eliminate any group – and does not give a group a size more than it deserves,” he added.

Raad said Hezbollah and its allies were working on having elections based on proportional representation.

Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai and MPs Sami and Nadim Gemayel contacted Hariri over the weekend, according to a statement from the former prime minister’s media office.

The statement said talks focused on the “initiative announced by Hariri Thursday, and everything that boosts national unity and coexistence between the Lebanese and helps to overcome the challenges that Lebanon is facing on the local and regional levels.”

A Bkirki statement said Rai praised a number of ideas in the initiative.

“He said it forms a space for dialogue, accord and contributes to boosting dialogue among the Lebanese for the sake of their national interest,” the statement added.

Rai stressed that all political groups should engage in dialogue to agree on an electoral law that meets their expectations and provides fair representation, the statement said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 04, 2013, on page 3.




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