The March 8 parties feel very confident that this year’s parliamentary elections will not be held on the basis of the 1960 electoral law, even if some amendments are introduced to it.
The parties’ stance conforms with the positions of Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai and major Christian parliamentary blocs who have rejected the 50-year-old legislation. The 1960 law, which adopts the qada as an electoral district and is based on a winner-takes-all system, was used in the 2009 parliamentary elections.
Following a meeting with Hezbollah officials, some March 8 allies have confirmed this trend. According to them, the officials said: “We cannot give our necks to March 14 parties and allow the elections to be held on the basis of the 1960 law,” which has been rejected by everyone, at least as shown by their statements.
March 8 allies quoted these officials as saying that they would not allow the dispute over a new electoral law to go on until the election date in June. Senior state officials, under the pretext that the vote is a constitutional and democratic event, stress that the elections must take place even if the rival political factions fail to agree on a new electoral law.
The March 8 parties are wary of the gravity of a consensus between President Michel Sleiman, Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt to say that the elections must take place and that the matter is not linked to a new electoral law as long as there is legislation that ensures the election process, an approach that would put the March 8 alliance in an embarrassing situation.
The March 8 sources quoted Hezbollah officials as saying that irrespective of local, Arab, foreign or U.N. pressure, holding the elections according to the 1960 law was unacceptable, especially since most parties, except the Druze, have announced that they oppose holding the vote within this framework.
The March 8 parties are open to all options and ready to discuss all proposals that can ensure a true representation for all sects, they said.
Those visiting the Hezbollah officials did not get the impression there was assent on a new electoral law. They said the door had not yet been closed on such an agreement, adding that contacts launched by Speaker Nabih Berri with all the parties were still continuing, even though no concrete results had so far emerged.
Some of the March 8 parties, particularly MP Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement, have rejected a proposal presented by PSP’s MP Akram Shehayeb during the meetings of the parliamentary subcommittee for the creation of a senate. They said that if some wanted to discuss the issue of the country’s political system as a whole, “let the elections be postponed, after which we can begin discussing these formulas whose approval requires a consensus.”
However, parliamentary sources voiced fears that the current political tensions might lead Lebanon to a dead end before an agreement was reached on election legislation, similar to what happened in 2005 following the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and the May 7, 2008, clashes between pro- and anti-government groups in Beirut, which eventually led to the Doha Accord.