Lebanon – Six Blocs Reportedly Approve Orthodox Gathering Law as Mustaqbal, PSP Reject It

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Six parliamentary blocs approved the electoral law proposed by the Orthodox Gathering during the first round of discussions aimed at reaching consensus on an electoral draft law, while only the Mustaqbal bloc and the National Struggle Front rejected it, LBCI television reported.

Several proposals were discussed during the meeting, the head of a parliamentary electoral subcommittee, MP Robert Ghanem, said.

“Discussions focused on each draft-law and we will continue to discuss them,” Ghanem told reporters after the three-hour meeting of members of the subcommittee. “The members of the subcommittee expressed similar views on several proposed draft-laws.”

Describing the meeting as “productive,” he said “several proposals were made to reach common ground.”

“The door is not closed to any other proposal,” he added.

Ghanem urged reporters not to seek more details pending a clearer decision on the electoral draft-law.

The meetings of the subcommittee were revived on Tuesday, two days after the controversial proposal of the Orthodox Gathering came to the surface following an agreement between bickering Christian parties.

Phalange MP Sami Gemayel, Lebanese Forces MP George Adwan, and al-Mustaqbal MPs Ahmed Fatfat and Serge Torsarkissian, all from the March 14 opposition, are staying at the Etoile Hotel near the parliament building in downtown Beirut for security reasons.

The subcommittee’s MPs from the majority March 8 alliance are Hizbullah lawmaker Ali Fayyad, the Free Patriotic Movement’s Alain Aoun, MP Ali Bazzi from Amal and Tashnag Party’s Hagop Pakradounian.

The subcommittee also includes MP Akram Shehayyeb from Walid Jumblat’s centrist National Struggle Front.

“We will seek to reach an agreement on the Orthodox Gathering proposal as soon as possible as long as there is Christian consensus on it and has received the backing of Hizbullah and Amal,” said Aoun upon arrival to parliament for Tuesday’s talks.

Torsarkissian told reporters at the assembly that the new “law would decide the fate of the country for years to come.”

The meeting was preceded by talks between members of the March 8 majority alliance on one side and the March 14 coalition on the other.

An Nahar daily said the FPM’s MPs hoped during a meeting held by the majority lawmakers in parliament that Hizbullah and Amal would approve the Orthodox Gathering proposal that calls for each sect to elect its own MPs under a proportional representation system based on a nationwide district.

Another meeting between March 8 officials was held at the residence of Energy Minister Jebran Bassil in Rabieh on Monday night. The meeting was attended by several lawmakers, the Hizbullah leader’s aide, Hussein Khalil, and the party’s security official Wafiq Safa.

Bassil told An Nahar following the talks that the Orthodox proposal would be approved as long as the rival Christians have reached an agreement on it.

“The Christians have a true and rare opportunity to witness the adoption of an electoral law that gives them full representation,” he said.

The Christian parties from both the March 8 and March 14 alliances agreed during a meeting of a four-party committee representing the LF, the FPM, Marada and the Phalange that they held under Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi on Sunday night to support the Orthodox proposal.

Despite Bassil’s optimism, the chances for the adoption of the proposal are slim over the rejection voiced by March 14 Muslim parties.

While Hizbullah and Amal – both Shiite Muslim parties from the March 8 majority – claim that they support any agreement reached between Christians, the opposition’s Muslims and mainly al-Mustaqbal movement have rejected the Orthodox Gathering’s proposal for allegedly creating sectarian divisions.

MPs Adwan, Fatfat, Gemayel and Torsarkissian also held a preparatory meeting at the Etoile Hotel on Monday night ahead of the talks in parliament.

Tuesday’s talks will mainly focus on the type of system and the number and size of districts.

The cabinet has already proposed a bill that divides Lebanon into 13 districts and is based on proportional representation. But the draft-law faces severe criticism from the March 14 alliance and Jumblat’s National Struggle Front.

The opposition has also proposed a draft-law that divides Lebanon into 50 districts based on the winner-takes-all system.


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