BEIRUT: Preliminary discussions over a new electoral draft law began Wednesday between rival political groups in a bid to break the deadlock over which proposal will govern June’s parliamentary polls.
Members of a parliamentary subcommittee who met Wednesday will meet again Monday to continue discussing a draft law that combines proportional representation with a winner-take-all system.
The panel discussed the hybrid electoral draft law in an attempt to bridge the widening gap between the March 8 and March 14 camps.
A source close to Speaker Nabih Berri told The Daily Star that Berri made the proposal Tuesday to MP Robert Ghanem, who is chairing the subcommittee meetings.
“After reading the minutes [of last week subcommittee’s meetings], he [Berri] tried to look for common ground,” said the source, who asked not to be identified.
“Since some parties insist on proportional representation and others on a winner-takes-all system, the speaker proposed to MP Robert Ghanem that the subcommittee discuss a hybrid electoral law, by which 64 lawmakers are elected based on a winner-takes-all system and another 64 under a proportional representation system.”
The source said that according to the plan, in areas under proportional representation governorates would act as electoral districts. In areas with winner-takes-all, qadas would be considered districts.
“Any proposals to make qadas bigger or smaller will be discussed.”
The Lebanese Forces, the Kataeb Party, the Free Patriotic Movement, the Amal Movement and Hezbollah have backed a draft electoral law proposed by the Orthodox Gathering which enables each of the country’s sects to elect its own lawmakers using proportional representation.
But the Future Movement and the Progressive Socialist Party oppose the Orthodox Gathering proposal, and instead call for adopting a winner-takes-all system.
Speaking after the subcommittee’s meeting, Ghanem said the body would convene Monday to continue deliberations after its members consult with the heads of their blocs.
“Some colleagues posed specific questions that require answers so that we can achieve progress and these questions need to be studied by [subcommittee] members who are at the discussion table,” he said.
“Thus the subcommittee will convene again Monday at 10:30 a.m., awaiting the answers for these questions,” Ghanem added. A member of the subcommittee told The Daily Star that talks during the session focused on how to decide whether a district would be run by proportional representation or a winner-takes-all system.
The lawmaker explained that MPs also discussed how many deputies would be chosen by winner-takes-all plan, and how many by proportional representation.
Future Movement MP Ahmad Fatfat said after the meeting that his bloc had no specific stance regarding the new draft electoral law.
“We have no negative or positive stance today, this issue will be studied from today until Monday when we will have clear answers,” he said.
For his part, Lebanese Forces MP George Adwan said that the subcommittee should finish its work by next week.
Berri reiterated his support for any electoral law that Christian parties agree to back. MPs who attended the speaker’s weekly meeting with lawmakers at his Ain al-Tineh residence quoted him as saying that the best electoral law was the one that had the backing of all Lebanese political groups.
Berri said he would hold more talks and meetings to achieve consensus over a law that guarantees fair representation for all.
Berri stressed that elections would be held on time, adding that he was not pessimistic, in light of the meetings of the parliamentary subcommittee.
Prime Minister Najib Mikati slammed the Orthodox Gathering proposal, saying that an electoral law should unite rather than divide the Lebanese.
“Elections are the key to political stability and the electoral law is the entry point to the bridge that will lead us to safety,” he said during a ceremony at the Grand Serail. “Rather than returning to the [Taif] Accord which ended the war in Lebanon ... discussions [of the electoral law] have reached a high level of danger, stoking sectarianism and political posturing.”
In remarks published by a local newspaper Wednesday, Mikati advocated a combination of a winner-takes-all system and proportional representation as a way of reconciling differences among politicians.
Separately, President Michel Sleiman signed a decree to call Parliament to hold an extraordinary term beginning Jan. 17 and lasting until March 18. An electoral draft law, budget and other draft laws will be on the agenda.