Lebanon News

Khalil says National Dialogue session to resolve electoral deadlock

Health Minister Ali Hasan Khalil, right, and the head of Beirut's Order of Physicians Sharaf Abu Sharaf attend a press conference in Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2011. (Mohammad Azakir/The Daily Star)

BEIRUT: Health Minister Ali Hasan Khalil criticized Sunday what he described as pressure exerted on Lebanon to hold elections based on the 1960 law, adding that a consensus on a new electoral proposal should be reached via a National Dialogue session.

"Let's talk frankly, the 1960 law is long gone and we will not allow [the country] to go 60 years back. We say that because it’s an expression of the political consensus that we heard from all forces including officials, parties and movements [in rejecting the 1960 law],” Khalil said.

Khalil, whose remarks came during a commemoration of three martyrs who were killed in an Israeli explosion in 1984, was referring to a decision by President Michel Sleiman and Prime Minister Najib Mikati to sign a decree calling for the June 9 elections based on the current law.

“We should translate the Lebanese consensus on the death of the 1960 by ending this mental pressure exerted to force us to consider the law as a de facto one,” the minister, who is Speaker Nabih Berri's aide, added.

Most of the country’s politicians have rejected a return to the 1960 law, an amended version of which was used in the 2009 parliamentary elections based on the qada system. However, lawmakers have so far failed to reach consensus on an alternative proposal, raising the possibility of a delay in elections and a subsequent extension of Parliament’s term.

Khalil said that the pressure exerted on Lebanon is also accompanied by foreign pressure to hold the elections on time based on the old law, adding that speeches by politicians have deepened the crisis in the country.

Sleiman and Mikati’s decree, which sparked the ire of March 8 coalition figures, was coupled with Interior Minister Marwan Charbel’s decision to open the doors for candidates to register for the polls starting next week.

“It is now necessary to exceptionally hold a Lebanese dialogue session to agree on a new electoral law or else we are in front of a true crisis and the constitutional path will be followed via the Parliament according to mechanism,” Khalil said.

Meanwhile, March 14 MP Michel Faroun said during a radio show Sunday he would agree to a National Dialogue session for the sake of reaching a political consensus on forming a neutral government and postponing the election.

But advisor to former Prime Minister Saad Hariri Dawoud Sayegh told LBCI earlier Sunday that the March 14 group has not yet unanimously decided on delaying the polls.

“If we do not carry out the rotation of power, we would have failed in democracy,” Sayegh said.

“March 14 and its components, Future Movement, Lebanese Forces and the Kataeb, have reached a formula that is now being discussed with the Socialist Party and we have not reached the decision to postpone elections,” he added.

Media reports Sunday said that the draft law under study by the opposition group mandates that 45 percent of MPs are elected based on proportional representation in 10 districts while 55 percent are voted for based on a winner-takes-all system in 26 districts.

It also stipulates that Chouf and Aley are joined in one district at the request of MP Walid Jumblatt.

Talk of a hybrid law that combines both proportionality and majority systems took center stage when political parties failed to agree on a single proposal.

Although the joint parliamentary committees voted in favor of the Orthodox Gathering law which mandates that every sect elect its own MPs, Future Movement, and Jumblatt, along with the president have rallied against its adoption.





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