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Electoral Law Causes Cracks among ‘Allies,’ Jumblat Warns of Coup against Taif | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Prime Minister Saad Hariri met on Tuesday night at the Grand Serail with a PSP delegation, including Minister Marwan Hamadeh and MP Wael Abou Faour/NNA

Beirut- Optimism witnessed in Lebanon in the past two days on a near agreement on a new electoral law, vanished on Tuesday when leading political forces refused most geographical divisions listed in a draft law mixing the majority and proportional representation systems.

A four-party committee including representatives from the Future Movement, the Amal Movement, the Free Patriotic Movement and Hezbollah is working to develop an electoral law based on a hybrid proposal that mixes the majority and proportional representation systems to replace the 1960 law.

But the committee’s proposal has not received the slightest acceptance of some leading political forces. Instead, head of the Amal Movement, Speaker Nabih Berri in addition to the Marada Movement completely rejected the draft law, which is required for holding the parliamentary elections expected next May.

Also, the Future Movement expressed reservations on the proposal, which was fiercely criticized by the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) of Walid Jumblat whose representative MP Wael Abou Faour warned on Tuesday that the new election law could be a coup against the Taif Accord.

On Tuesday evening, the four-party committee held its second meeting at the Presidential Palace in Baabda, but again failed to reach any breakthrough as a result of conflicting proposals.

Several parties and forces have expressed fears from being excluded from the electoral balance, if a new law is endorsed to please the ruling team. Such fears were voiced on Tuesday by head of the Kataeb Party MP Sami Gemayel and former Prime Minister Najib Miqati, in addition to the PSP, Marada and other independent Christian figures.

On Tuesday, Abou Faour accompanied by a Democratic Gathering delegation visited Miqati, to discuss the issue.

“There is a constitutional contract, which is Taif Agreement–and it is binding for all the Lebanese. It had cost us a lot of sacrifices, losses, bloods, and wounds that we all shared as Lebanese. And, if anybody wishes to overthrow the Taif, let them say it frankly,” Abu Faour told reporters following the meeting.

However, Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Ghassan Hasbani underestimated the level of pessimism surrounding the birth of a new electoral law.

In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, Hasbani said: “Discussions on a hybrid law have not yet reached a dead-end.” The minister said there are currently several suggestions concerning the law, but that all proposals were still under revision.

“Any suggestion should follow the path that respects a fair representation of all Lebanese factions,” he said.

Hasbani also asserted that no law would be issued to suit a certain team. “We are working to prevent the exclusion of any party from the democratic framework of the elections. What is important is that we hold the parliamentary elections with a new law that meets the ambitions of the Lebanese people and enhance democracy, which characterizes Lebanon.”

Despite reports that the adoption of a hybrid draft-law was out of question, the Future parliamentary bloc reiterated on Tuesday its adherence to the hybrid election law mixing majority and proportional representation, and underlined the need to hold the polls on time.

For his part, Public Works Minister Youssef Finianos told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the Marada Movement (which he represents) totally rejects the current proposal,” adding that the issue “is out of discussion.”

Finianos said the new draft- law was drawn to suit the interests of some parties that aim to control the majority of Christian seats.