BEIRUT: Lawmakers from the March 8 coalition intend to press Speaker Nabih Berri to put the Orthodox Gathering electoral proposal to a vote in Parliament, parliamentary sources told The Daily Star Tuesday.
The March 8 sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the request to put the controversial draft to a vote was put forward during a meeting at Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri’s Ain al-Tineh residence attended by Free Patriotic Movement MP Ibrahim Kanaan and Amal Movement MP Ali Bazzi.
The Orthodox law, which projects Lebanon as a single district wherein each sect elects its own MPs under a system of proportional representation, is strongly opposed by the country’s president and prime minister, the Future Movement, the Progressive Socialist Party and independent Christian figures.
During an interview late Monday, Prime Minister Najib Mikati vowed he would not allow the Orthodox Gathering to pass in Parliament.
“The Orthodox draft will not pass and will not even reach the Constitutional [Council] to be challenged,” he said. President Michel Sleiman has vowed to challenge the draft should it get Parliament’s approval.
The decision to push for a vote in Parliament comes after Sleiman signed a decree calling for the elections to be held on June 9.
Earlier Tuesday, March 8 politicians who met in Parliament slammed the decision to sign the electoral decree.
Kanaan described the president’s actions as a “black day in the history of the executive branch.”
He also said that Parliament, and not the Cabinet, would decide the fate of the Orthodox Gathering proposal, which was approved recently by Parliament’s joint committees.
“The [head of the] Cabinet saying that the Orthodox proposal will not pass violates the authority of Parliament and to the principle of the separation of powers,” said Kanaan.
The FPM official also warned that failure to refer the Orthodox law to Parliament would set a “dangerous precedent.”
“Toppling the deal on adopting the Orthodox Gathering law is a dangerous precedent,” he said.
Kanaan also reiterated his party’s rejection to the 1960 law, which governed the previous elections, and called for endorsing a new voting system for the upcoming polls.
“We reject the 1960 law. It will not be approved,” he said. “We should respect the constitutional deadlines to hold the polls according to a new electoral law,” he added.
Rejected by officials on both sides of the political divide, the 1960 law adopts the qada as an electoral district and is based on a winner-takes-all system.
During a Cabinet meeting headed by Sleiman at Baabda Palace Tuesday, the president and prime minister voiced their assurances that political rivals still have a chance to agree on a consensual law to prevent the elections being held under the 1960 law.
In his interview Monday, Mikati said he was opposed to the 1960 law but that he had to abide by constitutional norms.