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Berri says still time for deal on new vote law
Speaker Nabih Berri speaks with Lebanese Forces MP George Adwan in Parliament on Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)
Speaker Nabih Berri speaks with Lebanese Forces MP George Adwan in Parliament on Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)
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BEIRUT: Rival parties have enough time to reach a new electoral law, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri was quoted as saying in a report published Saturday.

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Marwan Charbel reiterated his concerns that elections, due June 9, would not be held on time without a deal on a new electoral law and cited possible obstacles to the formation of a committee to supervise the 2013 parliamentary elections.

“We have three months and a half left until the elections. We have sufficient time to agree on a new electoral law, if all rivals are ready,” visitors who met Berri Friday quoted him as saying, according to pan-Arab Al-Hayat.

With no consensual electoral law yet in sight to replace the 1960 law – the law in effect that has been opposed by most parties in the country – elections face the risk of delay.

Berri was quoted as stressing the need for political rivals to find a replacement to the 1960 law – a qada-based, winner-takes-all system – as well as the Orthodox Gathering proposal, which mandates each sect elect their own MPs using proportional representation with Lebanon as a single electoral district.

“We should agree on an alternative electoral law that joins proportional representation and the winner-take-all systems to replace the 1960 and Orthodox laws,” the speaker was quoted as saying.

The Orthodox Gathering was approved last month by Parliament’s joint committees in the face of opposition from the president, prime minister, the Future Movement, Progressive Socialist Party and independent March 14 Christian MPs. It is backed by the main Christian political parties in the country, Hezbollah and Berri’s Amal Movement.

Free Patriotic Movement MP Ibrahim Kanaan said Friday he believed Berri would eventually call for a meeting of Parliament’s general assembly to vote on a new electoral proposal, including the Orthodox Gathering draft.

The OTV, the mouthpiece of the FPM, which strongly back the Orthodox proposal, said it had learned that a Parliament vote on the draft would be held regardless of who accepted or rejected it.

While Berri sounded upbeat that there was enough time for rival parties to agree on a consensual voting system, the interior minister voiced concern that continued disputes by rival sides could lead to the postponing of the elections.

“It will be hard to hold the elections on time if the political divisions in the country remain as is. The only solution is that [sides] agree on a new proposal that wins consensus,” he told As-Safir newspaper.

Charbel Friday opened the door for candidates to register for the polls starting next week.

In separate remarks to An-Nahar, Charbel said he expected March 8 coalition ministers would obstruct the formation of the independent elections committee to oversee the elections under the 1960 law.

“The formation of the committee requires a decree and the approval of [a simple majority], half plus one,” Charbel said. “The majority will not let a vote like this pass in Cabinet,” he added.

A judicial committee was tasked last month by the government to set a deadline for the establishment of the committee to oversee the elections.

Charbel reiterated his opposition to the1960 law but said was obliged to prepare for the elections under the present law in the absence of an alternative voting system.

“I am obliged to start preparing for the elections according to the law that is in effect,” said Charbel, referring to the 1960 law.

President Michel Sleiman and Prime Minister Najib Mikati signed Monday a decree that called for holding the elections on June 9 based on the 1960 law.

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