Lebanon Speaker Nabih Berri declared on Wednesday that he will not endorse any electoral law that “does not enjoy consensus.”
“Contacts and discussions are still ongoing in a bid to agree on a new electoral law and new ideas are being discussed,” MPs Berri was quoted as saying by MPs during his weekly meeting with lawmakers in Ain el-Tineh.
“We are still in the phase of mulling proposals and we have not yet reached a dead end,” Berri added.
“We reiterate the need to apply unified standards (in the electoral law format) and I will not endorse any law that does not enjoy consensus,” the speaker went on to say.
Berri’s AMAL Movement, Hezbollah, Future Movement and the Free Patriotic Movement are holding meetings aimed at reaching a deal on a new electoral law.
Taef accord compliance
Responding to claims that the hybrid electoral law does not not comply with the Taef accord Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea stressed on Wednesday that no one is trying to manipulate the Taef accord, assuring that efforts exerted are merely focusing on finding a new electoral law, National News Agency reported on Wednesday.
Geagea expressed astonishment at the “latest talk about the Taef Accord. We like to remind that we were the first to pay the price, and will not accept any tampering with Taef.
“But it is worth noting that no one has such an intention. There are strenuous efforts to reach a new electoral law which in turn would reinstate the Taef Accord further,” said Geagea during a celebration in Maarab.
He called upon all political parties to focus on approving a new electoral law to regulate political work in Lebanon, considering that the “hybrid law is the only one that would bring all parties together midway.”
He pointed out that the majority neither agreed on the full proportional representation law nor on full winner takes all law , adding accordingly, the hybrid law ( which blends the 2 ) has been the least rejected among all suggested drafts.
Geagea underscored that he is open to any suggestion that improves representation.
Meanwhile Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt called for the implementation of the Taef Agreement and slammed threats about vacuum at the parliament as “unconstitutional.”
“Enough putting election draft laws that only divide instead of unite, and violate the constitution,” said Jumblatt in a tweet on Tuesday.
“Implement the Taef,” he said, voicing calls upon political parties to endorse a law for the upcoming parliamentary polls in conformity with the 1989 Taef Accord.
The PSP categorically rejects a hybrid electoral law proposed by Free Patriotic Movement chief Gebran Bassil and all other proposals that contain proportional representation.
The Democratic Gathering bloc of Jumblatt, has been touring officials lately to make their position clear, the most recent was a meeting with Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Tuesday.
After the meeting the conferees agreed that all discussions regarding the electoral law must conform with the 1989 Taef Accord.
Jumblat added in his tweet: “Threats about vacuum at the parliament,” shall officials fail to agree on a new law are “unconstitutional.”
He was referring to a statement made by President Michel Aoun, who said that if had to choose between extending the parliament’s term or vacuum, he would choose vacuum.
A Phalange party delegation held talks Wednesday in Maarab with Geagea.
The delegation consisted of former minister Alain Hakim, politburo member Albert Kostanian and former secretary-general Michel Khoury
“We discussed the proposed (hybrid electoral) law and the possibility of introducing amendments to it in order to improve parliamentary representation,” Hakim said after the meeting, The proposed law was recently discussed in four-party meetings between the Free Patriotic Movement, al-Mustaqbal Movement, Hizbullah and AMAL Movement. It was reportedly proposed by FPM chief Jebran Bassil.
Asked whether the Phalange party would endorse the draft Hakim said
“There are a lot of points of contention regarding the hybrid law but we’re open to reaching a law that allows better representation and pluralism,” Hakim added.
Aoun’s ally , the Iranian backed Hezbollah has repeatedly called for an electoral law fully based on proportional representation but other political parties, especially the Future Movement, have rejected the proposal and argued that the party’s controversial arsenal of arms would prevent serious competition in regions where the Iran-backed party has clout.In 2013 Lebanese Forces and The Future Movement backed by the PSP agreed on a hybrid electoral law which calls for 54% of the MPs to be elected under the majoritarian winner-takes-all system and 46 % under the proportional representation system. This draft law was rejected by the Hezbollah-led March 8 opposition.
Also in 2013 Future Movement leader PM Saad Hariri rejected the electoral law that is based on proportional representation because there will be competition in some regions, but there cannot be any competition in other regions, because of the presence of Hezbollah weapons in them.
Hariri was referring to the 2009 election in the areas dominated by Hezbollah. According to the reports that surfaced back then Hezbollah gunmen prevented their rivals from voting and the results of the election showed it. On the other hand in the March 14 dominated areas several Hezbollah backed candidates won the election that was based on winner take all . In a proportional representation system Hezbollah will be able to gain more seats in the March 14 dominated areasbut will not lose any seats in its dominated areas as long as it is allowed to keep its arms and use them internally for political gain .
According to analysts Hezbollah is trying to use Aoun to dominate Lebanon by insisting on adoptingthe proportional law in a single or several expanded electoral districts.
The country has not voted for a parliament since 2009, with the legislature instead twice extending its own mandate.
The 2009 polls were held under an amended version of the 1960 electoral law and the next elections are scheduled for May 2017.
According to media reports , Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah is expected to address the issue in a televised speech in the next few days , al-Joumhouria daily reported on Wednesday. No one reportedly knows exactly what he is going to say . Some speculating that he may insist on the proportional based law, others speculating that he may back Berri