Beirut- Lebanon’s parliament has approved the country’s first proportional vote law that would allow the elections to be held in May 2018 after the current legislature served a nine-year term following two extensions of the lawmakers’ tenures in 2013 and 2015.
The law was approved by overwhelming majority despite insistence by several lawmakers that it was not perfect.
The three-hour session was chaired by Speaker Nabih Berri and attended by Prime Minister Saad Hariri and cabinet members.
Berri, who hailed the “historic” deal on the law, said it was the “best possible.”
“We were about to reach a fateful crisis. This law is the best possible and the compromise that led to its endorsement might have saved what can be saved,” he said.
“The compromise that happened is not harmful. I am keen on the rights of sects, but not sectarianism,” Berri added.
The speaker also expressed hope that the government would open an extraordinary term for the parliament to discuss pending draft-laws such as the public sector salary raise bill and to “restore the people’s confidence.”
MP Boutros Harb, who abstained from voting, said: “Parliament is required today to rubber-stamp (the draft-law) and raising hands without discussion and expressing opinion. We reject this.”
Kataeb Party chief MP Sami Gemayel, who on Thursday said that the law was flawed and lacked “unified standards,” reiterated his criticism during the parliamentary session.
“Why did the parliament extend its term for an additional year? Is it to give the government more time to bribe the voters by offering them (public) services?” Gemayel asked.
His remarks drew a sharp response from Hariri. “This is not what the government is doing,” he said.
The premier also withdrew from the parliament hall and returned only after Berri asked for the removal of Gemayel’s criticism from the minutes of the session.