BEIRUT: Future Movement lawmakers presented Monday the bloc’s draft electoral law that calls for Lebanon to be divided into 37 small districts based on a winner-takes-all system and the creation of a senate, in a proposal aimed at allaying the Christians’ concerns over representation.
The draft law, announced in Parliament, was based on a a four-point initiative launched last week by former Prime Minister Saad Hariri. The initiative called for a small-district law for this year’s parliamentary polls and a senate to be created in order to break the monthslong deadlock over what legislation offers fair representation for all sects.
“The Future parliamentary bloc presented this morning two draft laws. The first draft law calls for holding parliamentary elections on the basis of 37 small districts with a winner-takes-all system, and the second proposal, signed by more than 10 lawmakers, calls for amending Article 22 in the Constitution,” Future MP Ahmad Fatfat told reporters during the news conference.
He said the small-district proposal was aimed at meeting Christian demands for improved representation in Parliament without infringing on the coexistence charter. “The Future bloc’s proposal is aimed at addressing the concerns voiced over fair parliamentary representation, particularly with regard to the seats allotted to the Christians.”
He added that the proposal would be distributed to members of a parliamentary subcommittee tasked with finding a new electoral law for this year’s polls, scheduled for early June.
But Speaker Nabih Berri said in remarks published Monday that the Future proposal would not be listed on the agenda of the subcommittee, which resumes discussions Monday.
“I am waiting to officially receive Hariri’s proposal to examine it and then decide whether I will refer it to the regular parliamentary committees or joint committees,” he told As-Safir.
Fatfat said the Future electoral proposal emanated from principles consecrated in the Lebanese Constitution, “the most important of which is to safeguard coexistence, which is the main foundation on which the Lebanese system is based.”
He said that the demand for amending Article 22 in the Constitution was designed to clear the way for the establishment of a senate representing all religious communities as stipulated by the Taif Accord.
“The proposal calls for amending Article 22 in the Constitution in order to separate the election of the first Parliament on a non-sectarian basis from the establishment of a senate in which all spiritual families are represented and whose prerogatives are confined to fateful issues,” Fatfat added.
A constitutional amendment is deemed essential because the Taif Accord linked the creation of a senate to the election of a Parliament on a non-sectarian basis.
“There are concerns among all Muslim and Christian confessions. Hence, we stressed for the need for the establishment of a senate that can ensure the presence of all confessions,” Fatfat said.
The proposal calls for the election of a Parliament on a non-sectarian basis only after the formation of a national committee to abolish political confessionalism and the approval of essential reforms, Fatfat said.
“The establishment of a senate and the adoption of administrative decentralization will help implement the principles of equality, equal power sharing [between Muslims and Christians] and partnership. These are two fundamental steps toward rebuilding confidence among Lebanese citizens.”
There will also be restrictions on each voting area. “No more than five candidates can run in a single district, the largest of which will include an entire qada,” he said, adding that the Future proposal is a comprehensive means of reforming Lebanon’s political system and that it was “open to discussion and amendments.”
As in Hariri’s initiative, the proposal called for making the “Baabda Declaration” an indivisible part of the preamble of the Constitution.
The declaration was reached by rival March 8 and March 14 leaders during a National Dialogue session at Baabda Palace in June last year, and called for Lebanon to distance itself from regional and international conflicts. Meanwhile, parliamentary subcommittee lawmakers from March 8 and March 14 resumed discussions Monday on a hybrid electoral proposal that combines proportional representation with a winner-takes-all system.
“We listened to some suggestions by lawmakers on how to distribute the votes while combining the winner-takes-all and proportional representation systems,” MP Robert Ghanem, chairman of the subcommittee, told reporters after the morning session in Parliament.
He said Amal Movement MP Ali Bazzi suggested an equal 50/50 distribution between the two systems, while MP Walid Jumblatt’s Progressive Socialist Party MP Akram Shehayyeb suggested 70 percent of the seats should be based on a majority system and the rest on proportional representation. In turn, Kataeb MP Sami Gemayel suggested 60 percent be based on proportional representation and 40 percent on a majority system, Ghanem added.
The subcommittee’s mandate has been extended by the joint parliamentary committees until Feb. 15 to try to reach an agreement on a united voting system.
Free Patriotic Movement’s MP Alain Aoun, a subcommittee member, described the Future electoral proposal as “a consolation prize for its allies.”
Hezbollah’s MP Ali Fayyad, a subcommittee member, said, “We support proportionality and we reject anything else.”
Lebanese Forces MP George Adwan, also a subcommittee member, said the Future proposal would be discussed with the Kataeb Party in order to take “a united and joint stance” on it.
The joint committees, which include lawmakers from the March 8 and March 14 parties, will start meeting from Feb. 18, regardless of whether the subcommittee has reached an agreement, to discuss the Orthodox Gathering’s proposal, which gained a majority of votes among the subcommittee’s nine members.
Hariri and his March 14 allies have staunchly rejected both the Cabinet’s draft electoral law, based on a proportional representation system, and the Orthodox proposal, which calls for each sect to elect its own lawmakers.