BEIRUT: Kataeb Party leader Amin Gemayel said in remarks published Sunday he is consulting with the various parties to reach a consensus on a new electoral law that will secure the best Christian representation.
Meanwhile, the Future Movement and the Progressive Socialist Party are reportedly working together to draft a new electoral proposal that combines proportional representation with a winner-takes-all system.
“We are constantly moving and consulting with everyone,” Gemayel told An-Nahar newspaper, adding that his party was willing to discuss hybrid electoral proposals.
However, he voiced particular preference to a draft law presented by Kataeb MP Sami Gemayel.
The Kataeb lawmaker’s proposal would allow 60 percent of MPs to be voted into Parliament under a proportional representation system with the rest through a first-past-the-post voting mechanism.
“There are two main goals that any new electoral law must meet: Firstly, it must secure the best Christian representation possible after the decades of neglect, oppression and marginalization of Christians ... Secondly, the law should win the widest support in Parliament, particularly from the nation’s main components,” Gemayel said.
Efforts are ongoing to reach a consensus on a new electoral to replace the current 1960 law, a qada-based, winner-takes-all system that has been rejected by most political parties.
Earlier this week, joint parliamentary committees approved a draft electoral proposal presented by the Orthodox Gathering which allows each sect to elect its own MPs based on proportional representation with Lebanon as a single electoral district.
The main Christian parties have thrown their support behind the proposal, which is also backed by Hezbollah and the Amal Movement, but the law has been fiercely rejected by the Future Movement, the PSP, the country’s president and the prime minister as well a number of independent Christian MPs.
Opponents of the Orthodox Gathering law argue it would only deepen existing sectarian divisions in the country and allow for the rise of extremists.
The lack of agreement over a new electoral law for the June parliamentary elections has raised concerns on whether the polls will be held on time, paving the way for an extension to the terms of both the Parliament and Cabinet.
Gemayel said his party sought to correct what he described as a flaw in the system that left Christians underrepresented and affirmed the need to preserve the alliance with the Future Movement and the rest of the March 14 coalition.
“I [call on] all those who criticized our stances and attacked us ... to present a serious proposal capable of achieving partnership and the majority of the votes,” he said.
"It is our concern to preserve the alliance and strengthen it. It is true that our alliance is not merely based on an electoral law but the law affects the strength of the alliance," he said.
"What is needed is self-restraint to overcome this phase and preserve the national coalition," he added.
Gemayel was responding to allegations that disagreements over a new electoral within the March 14 coalition could create a rift between the allies and perhaps splinter the opposition.
He affirmed that there are fundamental principles that the coalition adhered to, such as its opposition to the Syrian regime and the presence of Hezbollah's weapons.
Maronite Cardinal Beshara Rai criticized Sunday political leaders over their inability to draft a new law for the upcoming elections, saying the failure to hold the polls would serve a blow to democratic norms.
“I wish that our political officials emulate Pope [Benedict’s] professional responsibility. Are you really capable of shouldering your responsibility? Is your professional conscious at ease when the political crises paralyze the country ... and jeopardize the fate of a whole nation?” Rai asked.
His remarks came during his Sunday sermon at Bkirki, the seat of the Maronite church.
“[Is your professional conscience at ease] when you are incapable of drafting an electoral law after years of study at the committee level and proposing laws that should be tailored to the country’s interests and not your own?” he said.
Rai also warned against disrupting elections because of a lack of agreement among parties, saying leaders “would then be ending the last democratic norm with regard to the rotation of power.”