Aug 10 2012
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Election law gives majority to March 8: experts
10 August 2012
BEIRUT: The government’s controversial draft electoral law based on proportional representation will help Hezbollah and its March 8 allies to increase their parliamentary seats and gain the majority in next year’s elections, experts said Thursday.
However, experts agreed with key leaders in the opposition March 14 coalition that the draft electoral law based proportional representation, which was approved by the Cabinet this week, does not stand any chance of being endorsed by Parliament.
“A preliminary assessment of the government’s draft electoral law suggests that it serves the March 8 group by giving this group a supposed edge in next year’s elections,” ex-Interior Minister Ziad Baroud told The Daily Star.
“Under the current election law, there are 64 [parliamentary] seats for Christians. Of these, only 34 seats are elected by Christians,” he said, referring to the 1960 election law, which adopts the qada as an electoral district and was used in the 2009 round.
All elections in Lebanon have so far been held based on a winner-takes-all system, which many blame for inciting sectarian feelings and depriving minorities of representation.
Baroud was a member of a committee appointed by the government in 2006 to draft a new electoral law. Better known as the Butros Committee, (it was headed by former Foreign Minister Fouad Butros), the committee proposed electoral reforms, including the adoption of a proportional representation system, the establishment of an independent committee to oversee elections and the use of pre-printed ballots.
Kamal Feghali, director of Bureau of Statistics and Documentation, defended the government’s proportional representation law in the face of fierce opposition by former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s Future Movement and its March 14 allies as well as by Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt.
“This electoral law is the best for Lebanon under the current circumstances through which the country is passing. With this law, each vote in Lebanon will have a value,” Feghali told The Daily Star.
“A proportional system will ensure a fair representation for all sects, including minorities and will fight election money [vote-buying],” he said. “It will also break geographical monopoly of any sect or political party over parliamentary representation.”
Feghali said the Future Movement and its allies would lose 22 parliamentary seats under a proportionality system compared to the 2009 elections.
He added that the Hezbollah-Amal alliance would also lose control over eight parliamentary seats for non-Shiite lawmakers.
Feghali said that although March 8 parties won 862,000 votes against 718,000 votes for March 14 parties in the 2009 elections, the March 14 coalition gained 16 parliamentary seats more than the March 8 bloc.
The 2009 election outcome was 72 seats for the March 14 coalition against 56 seats for the March 8 bloc.
According to a survey conducted by his bureau, Feghali said under the proportionality system, March 8 parties would do well in the 2013 elections, winning about 63 parliamentary seats against 56 seats for the March 14 coalition with nine independents.
Feghali said the main loser from the proportionality system is the Future Movement followed by Jumblatt. He said the PSP leader’s control of seven parliamentary seats in the Chouf-Aley district would he broken under a proportionality system.
The government’s draft electoral law has come under fire by Hariri, Jumblatt and March 14 politicians, including Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea. Hariri said the proportionality law was directed against the majority of the Lebanese, vowing to block its endorsement in Parliament.
“The least that can be said about this draft law is that it is directed against more than half of the Lebanese. Let it be clear from the beginning that this draft law is unacceptable and will not pass,” Hariri, head of the opposition parliamentary Future bloc, said in a statement. “The government presented a draft law made to suit Hezbollah and its allies, whether through proportionality or through the division of constituencies.”
Hariri’s statement came a few hours after the Cabinet approved a draft electoral law Tuesday based on proportional representation with 13 districts for the 2013 polls, cutting the number of districts to almost half of what the current election law stipulates.
The current law, based on the 1960 law, was adopted by consensus by rival Lebanese leaders in Doha in 2009.
The draft law is likely to be voted down if put before Parliament as the March 14 coalition and the PSP have agreed to reject any legislation based on proportional representation.
Under the Cabinet’s plan, Beirut and south Lebanon would be divided into two electoral districts, while the Bekaa, north Lebanon and Mount Lebanon would each be divided into three. The Cabinet also decided to allocate an additional three Christian seats as well as three Muslim seats for Lebanese expatriates.
Interior Minister Marwan Charbel, the architect of the government’s draft electoral law, said the law was not divine. “The [Interior] Ministry is ready to draft an alternative draft law if this law was rejected [by Parliament]. The final decision is in the hands of Parliament,” Charbel told the Voice of Lebanon radio station.
Both Baroud and Feghali predicted the rejection of the government’s draft electoral law in Parliament.
“The government’s draft law has been sent to Parliament where it will be buried,” Baroud said. “The draft law will not pass in Parliament due to a lack of consensus [among political parties] and the impossibility of ensuring a majority to endorse it.”
Baroud voiced fears of a return to the 1960 election law as long as rival political parties are unable to agree on a new election law.
Feghali also said the government’s draft electoral law will not pass in Parliament after it came under fire by March 14 parties. “If the dispute over a new election law persists, there is a big possibility that the 2013 elections might not be held on time,” he said.© Copyright The Daily Star 2012.
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