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Lebanon: Christian Demands Take Electoral Law Dispute back to Square One - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Beirut – Differences over the details of the parliamentary electoral law that Lebanon has toiled over for years are threatening to erase the recent progress that was achieved by President Michel Aoun, Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

The latest obstacle lies in demands by the Christian Free Patriotic Movement and Lebanese Forces to eliminate 20 parliamentary seats that were added after the 1989 Taef Accord.

Berri rejected the proposal, saying that they are part of constitutional amendments that FPM chief Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil is trying to impose as the June 20 deadline for the end of parliament’s term draws near.

The Lebanese political powers succeeded in reaching an agreement on an electoral law based on proportional representation and 15 districts. Disputes have lingered over the transfer of parliamentary seats from one district to the other and over the issue of the preferential vote.

These differences and the recent Christian demands have threatened to take the dispute over the law back to square one, but those involved in the issue sought to make light of the developments, saying that they are only superficial.

Sources from Berri have however expressed their disappointment in the FPM and LF behavior, telling Asharq Al-Awsat: “We want an electoral law, but they want a constitutional amendment.”

“It appears some sides want to burn deadlines so that we either return to the 1960 law or face parliamentary vacuum,” they stated.

The 1960 law was adopted in the last elections that were held in 2009.

“Berri will not stand idly by and watch opportunities being wasted. He will use his privileges during the remaining time in order to preserve the country and its constitutional institutions,” added the sources.

Meanwhile, FPM Secretary MP Ibrahim Kanaan told Asharq Al-Awsat that there are serious efforts to produce a new electoral law.

“The views of all sides should be taken into consideration so that common ground is reached or we can vote on the draft-law at cabinet,” he stressed.

Furthermore, he denied that Bassil had made proposals that require constitutional amendments.

“Our main idea stems from the fact that a certain number of parliamentary seats were introduced in some regions during the time of Syrian hegemony. The MPs in those areas do not represent their societies,” Kanaan explained.

“The hegemony is over and the seats should be redistributed based on practical and democratic bases,” he stressed.

As for the preferential vote, the MP announced that the FPM suggested that this vote be applied on the basis of the district, not sectarianism. It should represent all voters.

“This is the best way to avoid having the minority be lost in the majority or for the majority to become a minority. If these proposals are not acceptable, then we should turn to other ones, such as heading towards the secular state starting tomorrow,” said the FPM official.

Constitutional expert, former MP Salah Hnein warned that Lebanon will be headed towards “catastrophic choices” if a new electoral law is not approved by the June 20 deadline.

He explained that once the deadline is over, the government will be forced to issue a decree to hold the elections after three months based on the law adopted in the last polls.

“At this point, the new parliament will be constitutional and legal, but it will not be seen as legitimate by the people,” he said.