Lebanon News

Electoral reforms still on Cabinet agenda

BEIRUT: The Cabinet will convene on Monday to continue discussing potential reforms to the municipal electoral law after its members refrained from tackling controversial amendments on Friday but approved the adoption of a 20 percent quota for women. The Cabinet also voted against the Interior Ministry’s proposal requiring candidates running for municipality heads to hold a bachelor degree and those running for mayor to hold a baccalaureate. 
Three other reforms are unlikely to be approved by the Cabinet for lack of consensus, including lowering the voting age to 18, the direct election of mayors by voters and the adoption of proportional representation. 
As a potential way to avoid a parliamentary vote over lowering the voting age, the Cabinet could decide Monday to withdraw a draft law submitted earlier to Parliament regarding the amendment, media reports said over the weekend. 
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri’s call to lower the voting age to 18 and to form a committee tasked with the abolition of political sectarianism have been rejected by Christian parties, while the Future Movement tied both issues to consensus. 
Lowering the voting age to 18 would add around 238,000 new voters to electoral lists, including 58,000 Christians and 170,000 Muslims. 
Christian parties have tied lowering the voting age to allowing Lebanese expatriates to vote abroad and granting people from Lebanese origins the right to retrieve their nationality, a move seen as an attempt to counterbalance an increase in Muslim voters. 
In response to the speaker’s call to abolish political sectarianism, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea said Sunday that all Christian parties, regardless of their political affiliations, would oppose at all time the adoption of a numerical majority rule. 
“As long as parity in governance continues between Christians and Muslims, demographics would not count,” Geagea said, adding that “the extinction or survival of any community is tied to the reaction of its members at times of challenges.” 
Conversely, Amal Movement MP Ali Bazzi called Sunday for the implementation of the Constitution away from unfounded fears and concerns which prevent strengthening the state. 
“The introduction of true reforms to our political regime and its modernization start with the implementation of the Constitution which all Lebanese agreed to,” Bazzi said, a reference to article 95 of the Constitution, which calls for the formation of a committee tasked with abolishing sectarianism. 
Meanwhile, Progressive Socialist Party MP Wael Abu Faour called Sunday for national dialogue regarding major political issues including the abolition of political sectarianism, the right of people from Lebanese origin to retrieve their nationality as well as allowing expatriates to vote abroad. 
“If preserving diversity and domestic power balance required the implementation of a basket of reforms then there is no reason preventing us from reforming the political regime to guarantee all parties’ rights,” Abu Faour said. 
Abu Faour also voiced support for lowering the voting age to 18 and stressed the need to hold the municipal elections within the legal deadline. 
Separately, Phalange Party MP Sami Gemayel called for the implementation of administrative decentralization while emphasizing that a centralized state in a diverse country like Lebanon would lead to conflict among its factions over the “lion’s share” in power. 
“A special political regime is a need for Lebanon since its community is diverse and multi confessional and in such a society, centralized power cannot be enforced,” Gemayel said. 
Gemayel has called on earlier occasions for the adoption of federalism as a guarantee to Christians if political sectarianism is to be abolished. 
“Lebanese citizens and particularly Christians feel that no local authorities respond to their demands which lead to regional imbalance regarding the implementation of social and developmental projects and thus encourages emigration,” Gemayel said. 
Asked about his party’s relation with Premier Saad Hariri after the latter’s visit to Syria, Gemayel said the “relation was not the same as before but trust in Hariri was solid as always.” 
“Hariri’s visit to Syria is the result of Syrian-Saudi rapprochement and I understand Hariri’s step as premier although he was not convinced of it,” he said. 
He added that Syria did not prove good intentions toward Lebanon regarding the border demarcation and the issue of missing Lebanese.





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