Lawmakers across the country’s political divide told The Daily Star that Wednesday’s agreement to give a parliamentary subcommittee 15 extra days to discuss a hybrid electoral law was the last chance to find an alternative to the existing 1960 law. They warned that if this effort failed an extension to Parliament’s term would be likely.
A number of MPs said that after the Feb. 18 deadline, Parliament had two choices: hold elections based on the winner-takes-all 1960 law, or adopt the Orthodox Gathering law that the lawmakers believe the Constitutional Court may strike down.
MPs added that in the event that the Orthodox Gathering proposal was adopted, President Michel Sleiman, the Future Movement and the Progressive Socialist Party would file suit at the Constitutional Court.
The MPs said proposals by the PSP and the Future Movement did not meet the demands of Christian parties, which have called for electing their own representatives.
MPs who attended Wednesday’s session of the joint parliamentary committees said the March 8 coalition rejected elections based on the 1960 law, and would boycott polls based on this law.
If there is a deal, Interior Minister Marwan Charbel is expected to call for elections on the first Sunday in June.
But if there is no agreement, an attempt to extend Parliament’s term would become almost inevitable.
According to former MP Edmond Rizk, a participant in the 1989 Taif Accord that included constitutional amendments, such an extension would require a draft proposal signed by 10 MPs. This draft would have to be signed by May 10, at least a month before the scheduled elections, to “give President Michel Sleiman the chance to approve or object to Parliament’s decision,” Rizk said.
According to Rizk, an objection by Sleiman to such an extension would only delay its approval.
“If MPs insist on extending Parliament’s term, the Taif Accord gives them the right to do so despite the president’s objection,” he said.
MPS said that the Constitutional Court would be unlikely to uphold a suit objecting to an extension of the legislature’s term because of the power vacuum that could be created if it stepped down.