BEIRUT: After more than two weeks of deliberations, the parliamentary subcommittee discussing electoral proposals concluded its work Wednesday, with representatives of rival parties failing to reach an agreement on a law to govern June’s parliamentary polls.
Prime Minister Najib Mikati reiterated that parties must achieve consensus on an electoral draft law, after which his Cabinet will resign.
“The committee has reached conclusions on all draft laws and ideas discussed, particularly the hybrid draft law and the committee will present a report to Speaker Nabih Berri,” MP Robert Ghanem told reporters after the subcommittee’s last session, which convened in the afternoon following a morning session.
Ghanem said it is up to Berri to decide whether to refer the report to parliamentary joint committees, which he said the speaker would invite to meet next week.
“The subcommittee will meet next Tuesday to approve the report that we will present [to Berri],” he said.
The group was formed in a bid to achieve consensus among rival groups on electoral legislation. It discussed four draft laws, the last of which would combine proportional representation with a winner-takes-all system.
But remarks made by MPs who spoke after Ghanem demonstrated the persistent divisions over the electoral draft law.
MP Alain Aoun, from Michel Aoun’s Change and Reform bloc, said that the country would head toward an “open-ended crisis” if Parliament does not convene to vote on the Orthodox Gathering draft law. The draft law would allow every sect to elect its own MPs under a proportional representation system.
“The Orthodox proposal has won a majority of votes [in the subcommittee] and we consider this to be the main achievement of the subcommittee,” he said.“We consider this draft law to be constitutional and in line with the National Pact; it should be put to a vote in Parliament. If Parliament does not convene for any reason, then we are heading toward an open-ended crisis whose effect on the political system we don’t know.”
Aoun warned that March 11 is the deadline for Interior Minister Marwan Charbel to call for elections.
But Future Movement MP Ahmad Fatfat hit back, saying that he opposed such “intimidation.”
Fatfat said that a simple majority in Parliament should not be enough for an electoral draft law to be endorsed. “This is a major law that should be in line with the National Pact.”
“We proposed a winner-takes-all system with small districts to boost Christian representation, but we felt that some members of the subcommittee, particularly the representative of Free Patriotic Movement, did not present a detailed opinion on the matter.”
Fatfat’s remarks drew Aoun’s ire, who told him to “stop lying.”
“Shame on you Alain!” retorted Fatfat, accusing Aoun of lying too.
Fatfat and Hezbollah MP Ali Fayyad also exchanged blame over committee work disruptions.
For his part, MP Sami Gemayel expressed optimism that rival groups could still reach an agreement over an electoral law.
“We still have one and a half months. Let’s be positive: We could reach a solution and there are many proposals on table that we could agree on,” he said.
Before the second session, Ghanem met Berri at the speaker’s Ain al-Tineh residence. The Daily Star could not immediately reach Berri’s spokesperson for comment.
MPs who attended Berri’s weekly meeting with lawmakers said the speaker stressed that he would make every effort to help achieve consensus on an electoral law, highlighting that all groups should cooperate to agree on such a law and hold elections on time.
But a source from Baabda Palace told The Daily Star that the work of the subcommittee was a waste of time, as all political groups in the country want elections to be postponed.
“But the president will continue to work on holding it on time, particularly as there is international pressure to have polls on time,” he said.
Mikati reiterated calls for the parties to agree on a new electoral law, after which the Cabinet would resign.
“With the deteriorating situation in Syria and the current political crisis, any resignation without taking the repercussions into consideration could lead to another political crisis,” he told an interview by Al-Arabiya television.
“That’s why I called on all factions to agree on a new electoral law to be followed by the establishment of a new Cabinet. I think this is the best way to guarantee ... stability in these difficult circumstances.”
Mikati, who is in Davos, Switzerland to take part in the World Economic Forum, also discussed with Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu developments in the region and bilateral ties between Lebanon and Turkey.
Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt said he is open to discuss any positive idea for an election law. In remarks published in a local newspaper Wednesday, he said that elections are necessary, but won’t bring about the total defeat of any party.
He said any group would be mistaken to think that it could beat its rival through an electoral law, calling for national consensus to be achieved following elections.
Lebanese Army Commander Maj. Gen. Jean Kahwagi said that the Army is committed to remaining neutral in regional conflicts and to protecting parliamentary elections. “We reiterate that the Army is neutral toward regional conflicts, and is committed to protecting parliamentary elections and the right of people to express their opinion, and to operating under the political authority to maintain Lebanon’s unity, sovereignty and independence,” Kahwagi told a delegation of Arab and foreign military attachees who visited him at his office in Yarzeh.
“The Army does not belong to a party or a group and thus no party or group has the power to decide for it.” Kahwagi said that the Army has implemented over the past year the Cabinet’s dissociation policy toward events in Syria.
He noted that the Army implemented more than one security plan in the north in light of security incidents that occurred as a result of the unrest in Syria and following the October assassination of Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hasan, the head of the Internal Security Forces Information Branch.
“The most important thing is that the Army was able to prevent exporting from or importing strife to our country.”
Separately, Grand Mufti Mohammad Rashid Qabbani said that the political system in Lebanon resembles a dictatorship, as there are one or two dictators in every sect that speak for the entire sect.
“We the Lebanese will only get rid of this dictatorship ... when we give everyone the right to be represented in Parliament,” Qabbani said in a statement.
The mufti said that various groups within each sect and district should have the right to be represented, each based in his size.
Fatfat asked the mufti to clarify his statements, suggesting that such remarks could endanger parity between Muslims and Christians.
Dar al-Fatwa responded in a statement, saying that Qabbani’s statement said that every group within each sect should be represented based on its size. The statement stressed that parity between Muslims and Christians should be preserved.