Parliamentary elections will likely be held on time because of Western pressure even if a new electoral law is not passed, according to a former minister who has met with a number of U.S. and Western diplomats familiar with developments in the region.
The former minister, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that he concluded from his conversations with the diplomats that postponing elections would harm Western interests, as well as threaten national and regional security. If major Western powers feel a group is blocking polls, they might pressure the U.N. Security Council to issue a Chapter 7 resolution that would force a vote.
The minister added that senior Lebanese officials, including President Michel Sleiman, Prime Minister Najib Mikati and the heads of most parliamentary blocs are stressing their confidence that there will be elections in June even though they are well aware that local political conditions make this difficult – but they believe major powers will exert enough pressure to ensure polls go ahead.
MPs involved in the debate over a new electoral law acknowledge that it will be difficult, if not impossible, to find agreement on this given the divergent positions of parliamentary blocs. Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt opposes proportional representation, while most Muslim parties oppose the Orthodox Gathering’s draft law. As for the draft law Cabinet has proposed, some parties within the government have sent their own drafts to Parliament.
The MPs added that talk about a possible deal over former Minister Fouad Butros’ proposal – Mikati has hinted at this – aim only at defusing tension and do not accurately represent its chances.
Several March 14 MPs have said they oppose Butros’ draft because it uses proportional representation, an option they consider unacceptable while Hezbollah retains its arms.
Some MPs from Michel Aoun’s Change and Reform bloc and the March 14 coalition believe March 14’s recent decision to resume attending meetings of the parliamentary subcommittee on the election law has created a positive atmosphere that could result in a deal.
These MPs think that although the March 8 coalition opposes the 1960 law that was the basis for the last polls, time constraints mean this law – with minor amendments to satisfy opponents – will be used after all.
If there are no polls, foreign countries could step in as they did in 2008, a move that resulted in the Doha deal.