Beirut – A meeting between Lebanese President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Sunday helped overcome some of the remaining obstacles that are hindering the approval of a new parliamentary electoral law.
The meeting at the presidential palace in Baabda raised the level of optimism in the country that the thorny electoral law dispute will be resolved after years of political wrangling.
The lingering differences over the current law lies in the distribution of seats in electoral districts and if the preferential vote should be held on the basis of the district or province (qadaa), revealed Lebanese Forces MP Georges Adwan.
Hariri said after his talks with the president: “The meeting with Aoun was positive and we should speed up the drafting of the new electoral law.”
The premier stated that the drafting should be complete before Wednesday’s cabinet session.
Lebanon witnessed a flurry of political consultations last week in an attempt to eliminate the remaining obstacles in the electoral law and set a date for the parliamentary elections that have been twice postponed due to dispute over the law. The factions are also seeking to extend parliament’s term before it expires on June 20.
Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil stated that “time is running up”.
“It is unacceptable for us to reach vacuum,” he added, warning that vacuum will not be limited to parliament, but it will extend to the whole state.
He stressed: “We will forge ahead with openness and positivity to reach an agreement.”
He called for the adoption of an electoral law that is based on proportional representation and 15 districts, saying that there are no disputes over the essence of the new law.
Adwan echoed Khalil’s statements, adding that some issues of contention will be resolved this week.
The differences center on the preferential vote, he said.
“If we failed to reach an agreement, then we have no choice but to resort to a vote on it,” he explained.
The MP also denied that there are differences between the Lebanese Forces and Free Patriotic Movement, saying: “We are in agreement over 98 points, while two remain.”
Should a new law be adopted, then the date of the parliamentary elections will be set by the president and prime minister.
“The economic situation in the country depends on the adoption of this law,” stated Adwan.
Mustaqbal Movement MP Mohammed al-Hajjar meanwhile called for “preparing for the polls as if they were taking place tomorrow.”
He pledged that a new law will be approved soon and all officials should be responsible for preparing the country for voters to head to the ballot boxes to practice their democratic rights.
Not all sides in Lebanon have been pleased with the latest developments regarding the law, as Marada Movement chief MP Suleiman Franjieh lashed out at the Lebanese Forces and Free Patriotic Movement saying that they had reneged on an agreement made with Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi in Bkirki.
“They have gone against what we agreed on at Bkirki. Their fear has driven them to devise electoral laws that suit their interests,” he noted.