BEIRUT: Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea said Tuesday the controversial electoral draft law by the Orthodox Gathering is the only proposal with a parliamentary majority, asking its critics to find alternatives with sufficient backing.
Meanwhile, Geagea's allies in the Future Movement remained adamant on their opposition to the proposed law.
“The reality is that there is one electoral proposal with a parliamentary majority while the rest lack such a backing,” Geagea told reporters in a televised news conference from Meerab.
He added that his party along with his its allies in the March 14 coalition had launched talks with various parties in a bid to garner support for the opposition’s proposal based on small districts but failed.
“We tried so hard to secure the support of 65 MPs for the small-district [proposal] but we couldn’t,” the LF leader said, adding that the parties were only able to secure the support of 55 MPs for the draft law based on a majority system.
The Orthodox Gathering proposal, in which voters elect MPs from their own sect, has been adopted by the main Christian parties in the country but has drawn the ire of the Future Movement, MP Walid Jumblatt, President Michel Sleiman and some March 14 Christian figures.
The draft law’s opponents argue that such a proposal would strengthen sectarian divides in the country and allow for the rise of extremists while some Christians say it would hurt rather than benefit the Christian presence in the country, as it would show disparities between the numbers of Muslim and Christians.
During last week’s meetings of the subcommittee studying a new electoral law, six MPs out of the nine subcommittee members supported the Orthodox electoral proposal.
Geagea said it was unacceptable for the proposal’s critics to merely reject its adoption without providing alternatives that not only secure fair representation but also the backing of 65 lawmakers.
“We know there are gaps in the electoral proposal and there are legitimate critiques but no one has given us any other alternative in return,” Geagea said.
“I ask everyone opposed to [the Orthodox Gathering law] what we should do in this regard then,” he added.
He also noted that the discussion should not merely focus on the Orthodox law but cover the need to search for a new electoral law.
“The issue now is to find a new electoral law that guarantees the best representation and many Lebanese factions represented in the Parliament want to change the existing law. I hope that all our partners understand this,” Geagea said.
Asked about a return to the amended 1960 law used in the 2009 elections, as suggested by Jumblatt, Geagea said such an option was not on the table.
“Suggesting a return to the 1960s is not an option and not acceptable,” he said.
Reiterating their fierce opposition to the Orthodox Gathering draft law, the Future parliamentary bloc said such a proposal would divide the country into sectarian villages.
"We reiterate our opposition to the Orthodox Gathering law ... this proposal turns the people into sectarian villages not united by a national interest and gives the wrong message about Lebanon,” the bloc said in a statement.
The bloc, however, voiced its readiness to discuss any proposal that complements “national partnership.”
The lawmakers also affirmed their insistence on adopting a new law that would secure freedom of choice and respect the principles stipulated in the Taif Accord.