Lebanon News

MPs fail once more to agree on electoral proposal

March 8 coalition lawmakers Ali Fayyad and Ali Bazzi in Parliament in Beirut on Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)

BEIRUT: Rival lawmakers failed once more Saturday to reach a unified stance on a new electoral law to govern the upcoming elections and Speaker Nabih Berri called for the joint parliamentary committees to convene next week.

Berri said the joint committees tasked with studying a new electoral law would meet for four consecutive days starting Feb. 18, with two sessions allocated per day.

The subcommittee, which includes MPs from the March 8 and the March 14 parties, held a two-part, final session on different proposals for a hybrid electoral law that combines proportional representation with a winner-takes-all system.

Media reports Saturday said lawmakers appeared set on recommending Berri's hybrid electoral proposal to the joint parliamentary committees.

Berri’s proposal calls for electing 64 lawmakers, half of the seats in Parliament, on the basis of proportional representation with the rest voted in through a winner-takes-all system.

Chairman of the subcommittee MP Robert Ghanem said the lawmakers failed to reach an agreement on any of the hybrid proposals.

"We've come a long way in our discussions although the meetings did not result in any consensual, unified viewpoint on any of the proposals,” he told reporters in Parliament.

“Therefore we will refer the minutes of the meetings to Speaker Berri," Ghanem said at the end of the session.

He added that talks touched on several hybrid proposals presented by the Kataeb Party, the Progressive Socialist Party, the Lebanese Forces and that of the Future Movement.

"The draft laws had some commonalities at some point and discussions centered on the percentage of lawmakers elected under a certain voting system, the size of districts,” Ghanem added.

This was the subcommittee's second round of discussions in a bid to reach a consensus over an electoral proposal for the June elections.

Lebanese Forces MP George Adwan described earlier Saturday the session as divisive, adding that MPs would rank the proposals before they referred the minutes of the meeting to Berri.

"Today's meeting is the last one because everything has been discussed and we are now in front of options and this session will be decisive in terms of referring its report to the joint committees,” he told LBCI.

"The committee will rank the proposals today, meaning that whichever proposal is closest to the criteria we have put will be referred to the joint committees for a possible consensus,” Adwan added.

The subcommittee is tasked with looking into the type of voting system, the number of districts and the possibility of increasing the number of MPs in Lebanon’s 128-seat Parliament.

Adwan submitted a hybrid proposal Friday which he said excluded items that were rejected by rival parties and was added to the pool of other similar proposals presented by Kataeb MP Sami Gemayel and Future Movement Ahmad Fatfat.

In an interview with An-Nahar published Saturday, Berri said the Orthodox Gathering proposal would be the focus of discussions at the joint committees if MPs failed to agree on one single proposal.

"I am waiting for the final decision from the subcommittee with regard to a hybrid law or else the joint committees will have the Orthodox Gathering proposal at the forefront of discussions,” he said.

President Michel Sleiman, the Future Movement, MP Walid Jumblatt’s bloc and a few Christian figures have opposed the Orthodox draft law, saying it only deepens existing sectarian divide in the country.

However, the law has received the support of the majority of Christian parties with the backing of Hezbollah and Amal Movement.

Marada Movement leader MP Suleiman Franjieh said Saturday he along with his MPs would vote for the Orthodox Gathering if it is put to a vote in Parliament.

"We would go to Parliament to vote in favor of the Orthodox law if it was put to a vote and if we reach such a stage because it is still best and achieves fair representation,” Franjieh told reporters after meeting with the head of the Lebanese Democratic Party Talal Arslan.

The head of the Free Patriotic Movement MP Michel Aoun renewed his support for the Orthodox proposal in what appeared to be a response to Sleiman’s threat to challenge the plan if it was enacted by Parliament.

Aoun said Sleiman would not be able to challenge the Orthodox proposal as “unconstitutional” if it was referred to and approved in Parliament.

“I tell the president not to bother. The [electoral] law is an election system and has nothing to do with the Constitution,” he said in remarks published by Al-Akhbar newspaper Friday.





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