Any new election law, which by definition should be designed to represent all citizens, should receive near unanimous support, and gain the backing of as many parties as possible, not just those it might benefit.
The parliamentary subcommittee has this week been discussing the options on the table, but, as their indecisiveness perhaps reveals, none of the suggestions thus far have been anything near satisfactory.
The Orthodox offering would see Lebanon as one electoral district, with each sect electing its own representatives. While apparently the most popular of the draft laws being discussed, it has already faced criticism from across the board – from those diametrically opposed on politics, and from various religious leaders: Shiite, Sunni, Druze and independent Christians.
Even President Michel Sleiman has vowed to oppose the law should it gain parliamentary support, which seems unlikely, given that it has widely been labeled as a clumsy law, and one which would only further exacerbate sectarian divisions within the country.
Clearly this law will not do. But how can legislation that gains widespread support be introduced when each party seemingly backs a law that best furthers their interests and protects their existing powers and seats?
With polls timetabled for early June, it may already be too late. For if the country’s leaders have failed to create a new electoral law in 23 years, to hope to draft one in the next few months is a very ambitious move.
So ambitious in fact, that the cynical observer might be inclined to believe that all these draft laws being put forward, all these hastily sketched out and incomplete voting laws being put on the table, were never meant as more than methods by which to stall and dither, to fool the electorate into thinking democracy was hard at work, when, in fact, it was quite the opposite.
For until the entire sectarian system of government is revived, then a new electoral law, and one which satisfies all sects and all parties equally, is a near impossibility. Until then, each law put forward only seeks to promote the interests of one sector of society, and is preoccupied with the present, rather than looking to the future, as a good, strong electoral law should do.
Arguably, all the meetings and the discussions, the round tables and conferences which, over the past months, have debated the electoral law have been little more than an exercise in futility. They have achieved nothing except to successfully distract the electorate, for the time being at least, from the real, pressing and historical problems facing the country, from the everyday concerns of electricity and water to the systemic concerns of sectarianism and government.
Lebanon does not want for creative, inspired, neutral political minds. They are needed more now than ever to create a law which works for all Lebanese.