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Lebanon’s Politicians Agree on Holding Parliamentary Polls on Time despite Dispute on Electoral Law | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Pigeons fly in front of the parliament square in downtown Beirut. Reuters

Beirut-Discussions on which electoral law should be adopted in the parliamentary elections that are set to take place in June 2017 took the spotlight from the presidential crisis after Lebanon’s politicians failed to reach a breakthrough over the Baabda Palace vacuum.

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri lately made an initiative aimed at resolving the country’s political crisis; calling for early parliamentary elections before holding the presidential polls.

But his proposal did not receive the backing of all the political blocs, the majority of which give the presidential elections a priority.

A year before the parliamentary polls, which have been previously postponed two times in 2013 and 2014 over security reasons and the failure to approve a new electoral draft-law, parliamentary blocs began discussing what law to adopt. But there is a lack of consensus and each team is holding onto a draft-law that guarantees its success in the elections.

The Free Patriotic Movement led by MP Michel Aoun is holding onto the so-called Orthodox Gathering proposal which calls for each sect to vote for its own lawmakers. The Kataeb Party wants a law that considers Lebanon a single electoral district, while the so-called Hezbollah is asking for a law based on proportional representation which is rejected by the Future Movement.

Future has suggested a hybrid draft-law that combines the winner-takes-all and proportional representation systems, which is similar to a proposal made by Berri.

The 1960 law that was adopted in the last parliamentary elections held in Lebanon in 2009 divides Lebanon into 24 districts. Based on the country’s power-sharing agreement, the 128-member parliament is divided equally between Muslims and Christians.

Informed sources expected the “futile talks” on the electoral draft-law to lead to parliamentary elections based on the 1960 law.

Future Movement MP Ahmed Fatfat said that the elections should be held on time. But he refused to discuss the dispute among MPs during deliberations by the members of the joint parliamentary committees for the purpose of reaching consensus on what law would govern the next polls.

Fatfat told Asharq Al-Awsat that “limiting discussions to the hybrid draft-law would facilitate our mission if the intentions are true. But if Hassan Nasrallah continues to insist on proportional representation, and if Aoun sticks to the Orthodox Gathering proposal, then this means they are trying to obstruct the efforts” aimed at approving a law.

The MP accused Nasrallah and Aoun of “pushing us again to hold elections based on the 1960 law which we have said over and over again that we reject.”

Fatfat stressed that the lawmakers were capable of reaching an understanding on a hybrid draft-law.

“The law based on proportional representation is rejected as long as it (Hezbollah) is holding onto its arms and is capable of terrorizing voters,” he said.