BEIRUT: The electoral law agreed upon by political powers Wednesday is based on proportional representation for the first time since Lebanon officially gained its independence in 1943. The number of MPs will remain 128. However, after the next election, slated for spring 2018, six seats will be reserved for the diaspora – one seat for each continent, although this will require a further Cabinet decree.
With terms still limited to four years, the country will now be divided into 15 major electoral districts, made up of 27 sub-districts with the 128 MPs divided among them.
Parties and groups will still put up a list of candidates from across the sects but as opposed to the old, winner-takes-all system, the new law will allocate seats proportionally across the lists.
Each voter will select one list of allied candidates as well as choosing one candidate from the list as their preferential vote. The percentage of votes a list receives will determine how many candidates on that list will win one of that districts designated seats in Parliament. Whichever individual candidates take these seats will in turn be determined by the number of preferential votes they receive.
The voter is not required to cast a preferential vote. If the voter chooses more than one candidate as their preferred option, no preferential vote will be counted for that voter. In this case, only the voter’s choice of overall list will be counted. If, conversely, a voter casts only a preferential vote and does not select a particular list of candidates, then the list the preferential vote was chosen from will be automatically assigned as their choice, as well as the preferential vote.
Lebanese nationals in the diaspora will now be able to vote at embassies, consulates or other locations designated by proper authorities, as long as these members of the diaspora are registered in the Lebanese civil registry and have a clear criminal record.
One hurdle that was widely discussed in the lead-up to the signing of the law was the proposal to reserve six parliamentary seats for the diaspora. The new electoral law stipulates that six seats will be allocated for expatriates, but this regulation will not go into effect during the upcoming parliamentary elections.
The diaspora seats will be divided between three Christians and three Muslims, according to Article 112 of the new electoral law.
In a modification to the previous voting law, municipality members who wish to run for the next parliamentary elections will have to resign from their duties within a month of the new vote law being published in the Official Gazette.
The previous period in which resignations should be submitted was two years before the elections.
As in previous elections, the new law stipulates that citizens without a clean civil record cannot vote. In addition, naturalized citizens will only be eligible to vote 10 years after their naturalization went into effect, although this regulation does not apply to women who get citizenship through marriage to a Lebanese man. Active members of the various Lebanese security agencies are still not allowed to vote.
The new electoral law will allow for nonpolitical organizations registered and approved by the Interior Ministry to supervise elections.
The elections will be held on a single day nationwide, in contrast to municipal elections that are held in stages over the course of a month. Any eligible candidate may still run in any electoral district he or she wishes. The candidate fee stands at LL8 million ($5,333) and candidates must register before the deadline 60 days prior to the date of the election.
As for the election funding policies, any political financial contribution valued over LL1 million ($667) must be given or donated in the form of a check. It will be illegal for candidates to accept funding from a non-Lebanese national or foreign state.