BEIRUT: Rival lawmakers held the second phase of deliberations over a new electoral law Tuesday in search for common ground after earlier discussions revealed only a deep divide among the country’s political parties.
The head of the subcommittee MP Robert Ghanem handed Speaker Nabih Berri the minutes of last week’s meetings after the end of the first session Tuesday afternoon.
Ghanem said Berri was open to any law that the committee adopts and emphasized the importance of continuing the work of the lawmakers to reach a proposal that pleases everyone.
Before stepping into the meeting of the subcommittee studying a new electoral law for the 2013 polls, MPs voiced readiness to discuss any proposal that could facilitate the adoption of a new law to replace the existing one.
During Tuesday’s session, MP Akram Shehayeb, a member of MP Walid Jumblatt’s bloc, suggested open legislative sessions until MPs agree on a proposal.
“We suggested holding open parliamentary sessions until we reach a modern, consensual electoral law,” Shehayeb told reporters after the end of Tuesday’s first round of debates.
He added that MPs affirmed the need to hold elections on time and for the Taif Accord to be the basis of deliberations.
Meanwhile, Future parliamentary bloc MP Ahmad Fatfat reiterated his party’s outright opposition to an electoral law based on proportional representation.
“All proportional representation proposals under any headline are exclusionary and completely rejected,” Fatfat said. He added that people would be put off nominating themselves in Hezbollah-controlled areas given the presence of arms, making it difficult to implement proportionality in those areas.
In a bid to garner the support of his allies in the Future Movement, Kataeb MP Sami Gemayel proposed basing the Orthodox Gathering law on a winner-takes-all system.
“I suggested that a majority system for the Orthodox Gathering law and not proportionality to please the opposing side which is easier and I have explained it during the session,” Gemayel said.
Fatfat said such a proposal needed study and consultations with the party’s leaders.
Before the session, Lebanese Forces MP George Adwan said the committee could finish its work by the end of the month.
“Today, we will be listeners but at the same time we don’t want to waste time with discussions,” Adwan said before he joined his fellow lawmakers in Parliament.
“It could be the Orthodox Gathering proposal or any other alternative law but the elections will certainly be held on time not based on the 1960s law,” he added, noting that this stage would be backed by political parties represented in the committee.
Lebanon’s political parties and leaders, except for the MP Walid Jumblatt, agree on the need to change the existing electoral law; an amended version of the 1960s law based on the qada system and used in the 2009 elections.
However, the proposed draft laws have all been challenged.
Last week, the MPs from the Hezbollah-led March 8 alliance and the opposition March 14 coalition examined three conflicting draft electoral laws for this year’s polls: a controversial proposal by the Orthodox Gathering, which calls for every sect to elect its own MPs, a draft law presented by the Lebanese Forces and the Kataeb Party that would divide Lebanon into 50 small districts under a winner-takes-all system, and the Cabinet’s draft law based on a proportional representation system with 13 medium-sized electoral districts.
During last week’s sessions, six MPs out of the nine subcommittee members supported the Orthodox electoral proposal, which has triggered a nationwide controversy and has been rejected by President Michel Sleiman, the Future Movement, and Jumblatt, who warned that the draft would sharpen sectarian divisions and encourage the rise of extremists.
Some March 14 Christian politicians have said that the law would hurt rather than benefit the Christian presence in the country, as it would show disparities in the numbers of Muslim and Christians.