BEIRUT

Lebanon News

Lawmakers divided over prospect of holding elections on time

Lawmakers in the parliament. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)

BEIRUT: MPs from rival blocs were divided over the prospect of holding parliamentary polls on time as they participated in a session for parliamentary joint committees Wednesday.

Some said the elections, currently scheduled for June, would be held on time only if parties from across the political divide reached an agreement on an electoral law. Others believed that too much time had elapsed to allow for polls under a new law in June. Still other political groups, were indifferent on whether elections took place at all.

“I have little hope [that elections will be held on time] ... there are parties from both camps that want elections not to be held, each for their own reasons,” said an MP from the Kataeb party who requested to remain anonymous.

Another MP from the same party voiced his belief that elections could not be held on time if a new law was to be drafted.

“There will not be enough time for the candidate to conduct his electoral campaign and for the voters to examine the new law thoroughly,” he said. “But if the 1960 law [on the basis of which the 2009 polls were held] was adopted with minor amendments, then elections could still be held on time.”

A third MP from the same bloc was more optimistic, as he expected that a consensus on the draft law proposed by Speaker Nabih Berri would be reached between rival groups. Berri’s proposal combines proportional representation with a winner-take-all system.

“It is very likely that within the next 15 days we will reach a solution,” he said. Joint parliamentary committees decided Wednesday to give 15 additional days to a subcommittee, working with rival parties to reach a consensus, to conclude its task. The subcommittee will be studying the hybrid law.

A Lebanese Forces MP agreed: “I believe elections will be held on time, and the hybrid law will be adopted.”

Another LF lawmaker said holding elections on time depended on whether rival groups could agree on an electoral law: “If they quickly agree on a law, then yes [polls will be held on time], if not, then no.”

A Hezbollah MP said: “I won’t say anything. I will only say that we want consensus [over a law].”

“Why won’t there be elections on time?” asked one of his colleagues in the same bloc. “We are working on an electoral law on a daily basis ... there are MPs who did not attend today, they do not want elections,” he said, referring to Future Movement lawmakers.

MPs from the March 14 coalition boycotted all Parliament activities that involved ministers of the current government, following the October assassination of Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hasan, the head of the Internal Security Forces Information Branch. Parliament has not convened since then.

Kataeb and Lebanese Forces MPs attended the Wednesday session but those from the Future Movement continued their boycott. Two Cabinet ministers were also present.

A Future Movement lawmaker said it was in fact Hezbollah that was not interested in holding elections and not the other way around. “They have a [parliamentary] majority now [with their allies] ... they are not sure whether they will maintain it after the polls.”

The MP said a speech delivered by Hezbollah MP Mohammad Raad earlier this week, in which he said reaching a consensus on an electoral law was the only way to hold polls on time, is a subtle indication of the party’s unwillingness to allow elections to take place.

An MP from Michel Aoun’s Change and Reform parliamentary bloc said he believes polls will take place on time, only not under the 1960 law.

An MP from Berri’s bloc said it would not be a problem to postpone polls for a few months if various blocs reached consensus over the law.

“If we agree on an electoral law and we had to postpone polls for a few months to make preparations, then it won’t be a problem,” he said.

But he could not say whether polls would be held on time or if a consensus could be reached. “Nobody can tell [for now], we are working toward that.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 31, 2013, on page 3.

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