BEIRUT: Rival lawmakers Wednesday debated an electoral proposal by the March 14 coalition based on a winner-takes-all system fiercely opposed by the March 8 camp, who “rejected” the draft law altogether.
MP Robert Ghanem, who chaired the parliamentary subcommittee meetings, said lawmakers discussed the draft law formulated by the opposition group.
“Yesterday we discussed the Orthodox Gathering law and it took a lot of time and every party voiced their opinion in that regard. This morning, we discussed the 50-district proposal and the atmosphere was very positive and objective,” Ghanem told reporters in Parliament.
He added that another round of discussion will be held at 5 p.m. without media present.
“All partners are making an effort to make suggestions that are acceptable and do not exclude any segment of society,” the MP, substituting for Deputy Speaker Farid Makari who is currently abroad, said.
The March 14 proposal divides Lebanon into 50 small districts based on a majority system.
Hezbollah and its allies in the Free Patriotic Movement voiced opposition to the 50-district draft law with the former saying that the proposal is worse than the 1960s law used in the 2009 polls.
"The 50-district draft law is rejected in form and substance and it is worse than the 1960s one," Ali Fayyad said as he stepped out of the session.
FPM lawmaker Alain Aoun voiced a similar stance, saying: “The law is not designed to serve the interests of Christians but is in the interests of specific political parties.”
As part of a parliamentary subcommittee exploring a new electoral law for the 2013 crucial elections, lawmakers held two rounds of discussions Tuesday focusing on the controversial Orthodox Gathering proposal that has received a rare Christian consensus.
MP Akram Shehayeb, member of Druze leader Walid Jumblatt's parliamentary bloc, said the party was ready to discuss an electoral majority system, reiterating opposition to proportional representation.
"We are still in support of the 1960s law formulated in Doha," Shehayeb told reporters in Parliament, referring to the amended 1960s law that was agreed on in the Doha Accord in 2008 and used in the 2009 polls.
"But we are ready to discuss any proposal that is based on a winner-takes-all system," he added.
The Orthodox Gathering proposal, under which every sect would elect its own MPs based on proportional representation, has also come under fire by President Michel Sleiman, the parliamentary Future bloc and Jumblatt, who heads the Progressive Socialist Party.
They argue that such a law would strengthen sectarian divides in the country and allow for the rise of extremists, while Christian leaders say the electoral proposal guarantees fair representation for all sects.
In remarks published Wednesday, Prime Minister Najib Mikati voiced concerns that the Orthodox electoral proposal would eliminate equal power sharing between Muslims and Christians in the country and open the way for a tripartite system.
“The Orthodox [Gathering] law might pave way for some parties to call for a tripartite system in the future, which could negatively affect Christians,” Mikati, who spoke to An-Nahar newspaper, said.
Meanwhile, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said Wednesday he was pleased with the ongoing discussions among the lawmakers.
MPs who visited Berri at his Ain el-Tineh residence quoted him as saying that he was "pleased with the atmosphere prevailing at the subcommittee meetings," stressing that debaters should be flexible and patient and at a distance from their political disputes.
Berri also said that the committee should be given sufficient support so that lawmakers could reach an understanding with regards to a new electoral law.
The second round of Wednesday’s session will tackle the Cabinet’s proposal based on a proportional representation system with 13 medium-sized electoral districts.
However, the Cabinet’s draft law has been rejected outright by the opposition March 14 coalition.
Kataeb MP Sami Gemayel said Wednesday he expected lawmakers to wrap up the discussion on Friday unless new proposals are put foward.
"We support every law that guarantees true partnership and makes every Lebanese feel as if they have a say in this country," Gemayel told reporters.
"After the end of the [Civil] War, Christians felt that they were not true partners in governing the country and our concern today is finding a law that secures the true partnership for Christians.