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Lebanon News

Future Movement pitches own version of hybrid election law

Ghanem expects the subcommittee to continue its work until the end of the week.

BEIRUT: The Future Movement presented Parliament Tuesday with its own hybrid electoral law that was discussed by a parliamentary subcommittee but did not garner full support by all blocs.

Free Patriotic Movement MP Alain Aoun said the draft law does not provide fair representation for Christians and “will not work” in its current form.

“We gave our opinion [during the subcommittee’s meeting] ... there are unacceptable issues, such as the district [divisions] it suggests,” Aoun told The Daily Star.

Speaking to reporters in Parliament, Future Movement MP Ahmad Fatfat, who presented the draft law, explained that based on the proposal 70 percent of MPs would be elected under a winner-takes-all system and the rest under proportional representation.

According to the Future proposal, the third to be presented to the subcommittee, a winner-takes-all-system would be applied in 37 districts, and proportional representation in six governorates.

A member of the subcommittee, Fatfat said that the draft law provides fair representation for Christians. “There are 55 Christian and five Muslim MPs who would be elected mainly by Christians.”

Fatfat explained the draft law does not allow one side to eliminate the other during elections. “Our study indicates that the March 14 coalition would win 60 seats, the March 8 alliance 57 seats and centrists along with MP Walid Jumblatt would get 11 seats,” he added. Aoun disagreed with Fatfat, arguing that the Future Movement’s hybrid law would not allow Christians to elect 55 of their 64 MPs, but only 40.

He added that even the Kataeb and Lebanese Forces expressed their grievances with the Future Movement proposal.

MP Ali Bazzi, from Speaker Nabih Berri’s parliamentary bloc, presented a draft law last week suggesting an equal distribution of seats between a proportional representation system and a winner-takes-all system.

Progressive Socialist Party MP Akram Shehayeb proposed 70 percent of the seats be based on a majority system.

Aoun expected the Kataeb party and the LF to propose their own versions of the hybrid law Wednesday.

LF MP George Adwan said that while his group still supported the Orthodox proposal, it believed a draft law that achieved consensus was better since the Orthodox proposal was opposed by the Future Movement and the PSP.

Fatfat said that the Future Movement proposed its draft law to prevent postponing elections if an agreement on the law was not reached.

“We took a strategic step forward. We initially opposed elections based on proportional representation,” he said.

Speaking after the subcommittee’s morning session, MP Robert Ghanem was optimistic about the tone of the talks “as long as there are no hidden intentions.” He expected the subcommittee to continue to work until the end of the week, convening again Wednesday. Parliament’s joint committees are scheduled to discuss the subcommittee’s report Monday.

In separate remarks to The Daily Star, Fatfat said Hezbollah and the FPM did not want to reach consensus.

“I wasn’t comfortable during the [subcommittee] talks [Tuesday]. I feel that Hezbollah and the Free Patriotic Movement do not want consensus, they only oppose and do not propose an alternative,” he said.

Responding to Aoun, Fatfat said his statistics regarding the number of Christian MPs elected by Christians under his draft law were based on the FPM’s criteria.

Prime Minister Najib Mikati reiterated Cabinet’s commitment “to holding elections on time, which is June 9, based on the current [1960] law if Parliament does not endorse a new law,” Mikati told reporters at the Grand Serail.

The prime minister said the Cabinet would discuss forming a supervisory committee for the elections during its session Wednesday, adding that members would not be appointed during the session, “but within the deadline.”

The Future parliamentary bloc said it was open to discussions to agree on an electoral law that would preserve the national interest of holding polls on time.

“It [the bloc] considers that the initiative proposed by former Prime Minister Saad Hariri still constitutes a solution amid the crises Lebanon is witnessing,” the bloc said in a statement after its weekly meeting.

Last month, Hariri announced an initiative which calls for holding elections based on a winner-takes-all system, dividing the country into small districts, and the establishment of a senate in which all sects are represented.

Hezbollah’s deputy leader Sheikh Naim Qassem said that Hezbollah opposes a winner-takes-all system because it does not provide fair representation, regardless of whether it brings more MPs to the party.

“We should not deprive 45 percent of voters from being represented in Parliament, enough with [electoral] steamrolling and repressive voices,” Qassem said. “We have to recognize that there are two and three [other] groups within each sect ... we should not deprive groups [that have] considerable [political] weight from being represented under the pretext of coexistence.”

Qassem said that the 1960 law, which was modified to govern 2009 elections, is no longer on the table.

FPM leader Michel Aoun said he was ready to support any draft law “that allows Christians to elect their 64 MPs.” “But if someone was planning something else, then there will be no law, and we have the right to refer the issue to the Constitutional Council,” Aoun told reporters after his bloc’s weekly meeting.

“There is one draft law that enjoys a majority which should be endorsed by Parliament,” he added, referring to the Orthodox proposal. “There is no need to propose 20 other draft laws.”

U. N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Derek Plumbly hoped subcommittee efforts to reach a consensus over an electoral law would be successful.

“The holding of free and fair elections on time in accordance with the constitutional requirements is important for democracy and stability in Lebanon,” Plumbly said after talks with Mikati.

Plumbly said the U.N. is helping Lebanon with logistical preparations for the June elections, as in previous years. He added that he discussed the Syrian refugee crisis with the premier as well.

For her part, U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Maura Connelly Tuesday urged Lebanon once again to hold elections on time.

Connelly, who met Interior Minister Marwan Charbel, “encouraged Lebanon to uphold its democratic and constitutional principles and hold elections on time,” a U.S. Embassy statement said.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 13, 2013, on page 1.

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