The approval expressed by March 14 Christians for the Orthodox Gathering’s electoral law is intended to please the Christian electorate and the Maronite Church, according to a member of the Bkirki Committee on election law and the parliamentary subcommittee on the same topic.
The member adds that the Lebanese Forces and Kataeb know that Bkirki and the Maronite Order believe that the Orthodox draft, which allows Christians to elect their own MPs, is the only way to correct what they see as poor Christian representation in Parliament.
The member says that other options, including the 1960 electoral law – even if amended – will not eliminate the perceived problem.
A former head of the Maronite Order told The Daily Star that a failure to adopt the Orthodox draft could trigger Christian parties to make new demands on the system. These include the implementation of the Taif Agreement, increasing the powers of the presidency, and Christian control of senior administrative posts they once held. Christians might even suggest amending the Taif Accord itself.
Sources say that the meetings of Parliament’s subcommittee this week will go nowhere and that this will be the case until contacts outside Parliament reach an agreement, which will then be referred to the committee so it can prepare it for ratification.
The sources add that the Orthodox law will not pass even if all Shiite and Christian parties approve it, because of opposition from Sunnis. The head of the Future parliamentary bloc, Fouad Siniora, expressed this rejection Monday night on MTV.
Druze are also against the draft, and Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt recently said adopting any electoral law requires wide agreement similar to that needed for ratifying the Constitution.
The sources say that Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea’s call for Parliament’s General Assembly to choose from among the draft laws may not come to fruition, as all parties must agree for Speaker Nabih Berri to convene such a session.
Political sources say that even without agreement on a new law, if there is international pressure for timely elections then the 1960 law could be used with minor amendments. This is despite the fact that all parties have come out against the law.
The sources add that only the Shiite political parties can guarantee that they will maintain the same share of Parliament after the vote. Polls in Kesrouan, for example, suggest that Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun’s hold is not as strong there as it was in 2009 and that he may lose a seat.
His situation in Metn and Ashrafieh is no better.
As for the Future bloc, sources say the rising popularity of Al-Jamaa al-Islamiya in Akkar and Dinnieh may encourage them to ask for an additional seat on Future lists. Prime Minister Najib Mikati could make gains in Tripoli and the north, because of his defense of Islamist movements.