Lebanon committee focusing on Boutros electoral law

robert ghanemThe electoral parliamentary subcommittee ended its meeting on Tuesday without reaching any agreement over a new parliamentary electoral law for the 2013 parliamentary elections.

According to MP Robert Ghanem who chairs the committee even though the session was very positive, the approval of an electoral law will not resolve the disputes in Lebanon.

“We will resume meetings on Wednesday in order to reach a common ground between all subcommittee members. We are seeking to reach an agreement over a law that guarantees fair representation,” he stressed

He revealed that Tuesday’s discussions focused on the so called Boutros commission electoral draft-law

In 2006, the government-appointed National Commission for a New Electoral Law, known as the Boutros Commission, authored a draft law that proposed major changes to the 1960 electoral system, but the recommendations have since been shelved.

The Boutros Commission called for a hybrid electoral law, under which 77 of Parliament’s 128 members would be elected by winner-take-all, and the remaining 51 members would be elected by proportional representation.

The subcommittee meetings will continue past Wednesday should the common ground be reached among subcommittee members, Ghanem told reporters .

March 14 MP Michel Pharaon submitted another proposal which called for holding the elections in two stages.

The first will be based on an amended version of the Orthodox Gathering law, while the second stage will be held based on an amended version of the 1960 law that was approved during the 2008 Doha conference and adopted during the 2009 elections.

The MP is proposing that the candidates who win 20 percent of the vote will advance to the second phase of the elections.

The first phase of the elections would appease Christian concerns through the adoption of the Orthodox Gathering proposal, he said.

“These concerns are national ones, not just Christian. Had we implemented the agreements of the national dialogue, we would not have reached this current situation in Lebanon,” Pharaon noted in reference to all the agreements reached during the National Dialogue talks that started in 2006.

The subcommittee had initially met to discuss the following draft-laws:

Proportional Representation ( PR)

Lebanon’s Cabinet approved last August an electoral draft law which is referred to as the Charbel law ( in reference to Interior minister Marwan Charbel ) that called for proportional representation and divided the country into 13 districts as follows: Beirut 2, south Lebanon 2, Bekaa 3, north Lebanon 3 , Mount Lebanon 3.

The new electoral law was approved by the majority of ministers, including the Free Patriotic Movement Ministers (FPM) . However the 3 ministers that represent Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt’s bloc voted against it.

According to analysts Proportional representation has long been an objective of Shiite representatives, long before the formation of Hezbollah in the 1980s—and even before Amal’s in the 1970’s. Yet, support for PR has put the Shiite political parties at odds with others and specially the Christians and the Sunnis.

Orthodox Gathering

FPM MPs Alain Aoun and Neemtallah Abi Nasr submitted another draft electoral law to the parliament even though the FPM ministers voted for the PR system . This is the so called “Greek Orthodox gathering proposal” which calls on each sect in Lebanon to vote only for its candidate in the elections based on one electoral district for the whole country .

A Christian four-party panel on the electoral law agreed last Sunday to endorse the so-called Orthodox Gathering proposal

The panel took its decision during a meeting held in Bkirki. The four-party panel comprises representatives from the Free Patriotic Movement, the Lebanese Forces, the Phalange Party and the Marada Movement.

The Orthodox law was also criticized by President Michel Suleiman, Premier Najib Mikati, National Struggle Front leader Walid Jumblat and several other Christian MPs specially those belonging to the Greek Orthodox sect

Small districts

March 14 Christian MPs Georges Adwan, Boutros Harb and Sami Gemayel submitted a draft electoral law based on 50 districts and winner take all majority to the Parliament’s General Secretariat last October.

Most March 14 politicians prefer this law but it is opposed by all the Hezbollah led March 8 alliance

1960 electoral law

This is the current law which is based on the Qada( county) as the electoral district.

Jumblatt and his PSP MPs still favor this 1960 majoritarian (or “winner take all”) system, but almost all the other lebanese politicians in March 14 and March 8 reject this law and call it unfair