Parliamentary Subcommittee to Meet Monday to Find Common Electoral Ground

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A parliamentary subcommittee completed discussions on electoral draft-laws, including the number of MPs, and will hold a meeting next week to announce the minutes of the deliberations, its chairman MP Robert Ghanem announced Friday.

“The minutes of the previous meetings will be announced during a session on Monday afternoon aimed at finding common ground on an electoral draft-law,” Ghanem told reporters in parliament.

“There isn’t consensus on one issue … But discussions were serious,” he said.

Ghanem hinted that the MPs could hold another meeting on Tuesday.

The 10-member subcommittee held its meeting on Friday in the absence of Change and Reform bloc lawmaker Alain Aoun who walked out of the discussions the day before over what he said was the rejection of the opposition March 14 lawmakers to finalize the minutes of the last meeting.

Aoun said his boycott is aimed at protesting “the campaign led by al-Mustaqbal movement,” and attempts by the opposition members of the subcommittee to “drown the meetings with useless ideas to waste time.”

He said the agenda of the meetings is clear in terms of discussing three proposed draft-laws, including the Orthodox Gathering proposal which has won support by four rival Christian parties – the FPM, the Lebanese Forces, the Phalange party and the Marada movement.

The proposal calls for adopting Lebanon as a single district based on proportional representation with each sect electing its own MPs. The other suggestions include a March 14 draft-law that calls for dividing Lebanon into 50 districts based on a winner-takes-all system and a government bill referred to parliament which projects Lebanon as 13 districts in a proportional representation system.

The political differences between members of the opposition and the March 8 parliamentary majority alliance have led to the failure of the two sides since Tuesday to agree on a draft-law that best guarantees the representation of the Lebanese in this year’s elections.

March 14 Christian politicians, al-Mustaqbal, and MP Walid Jumblat’s National Struggle Front have criticized the Orthodox Gathering for allegedly deepening sectarian divisions.

Al-Mustaqbal and Jumblat have also criticized the cabinet’s proposal, saying they totally reject proportionality.

Following Friday’s meeting, al-Mustaqbal MP Serge Torsarkissian slammed Aoun for withdrawing from the meetings, describing his boycott as an “electoral folklore” to insinuate that only the Free Patriotic Movement clings to the rights of Christians.

“Aoun is wasting time and is escaping from the Orthodox Gathering proposal,” he told reporters.

Lebanese Forces MP George Adwan, who is another opposition member of the subcommittee, said: “We are not seeking to monopolize decision-making or isolate any side.”

He expressed belief that Aoun would attend Monday’s meeting after the subcommittee agreed to finalize the minutes of its meetings.

“There will absolutely be no returning to the 1960 law,” he said about the winner-takes-all system that takes the Qada as an electoral district and which was used in the 2009 elections.

Adwan met with Speaker Nabih Berri for 30 minutes in Ain el-Tineh and then returned to parliament to attend the meeting.

He said following the talks that Berri holds onto his stance of supporting the Greek Orthodox proposal for receiving the backing of Christian parties.

The MP said the speaker hoped the subcommittee would complete its work swiftly to hold a parliamentary session aimed at adopting an electoral draft-law that guarantees a fair representation for all the Lebanese.

MP Sami Gemayel expressed a similar view after attending the meeting of the subcommittee as a representative of the Phalange party.

“We are seeking real partnership in Lebanon and we want all sides to believe that they are being fairly represented,” he said.

“We will no longer accept that we be treated in the same manner that we were treated in the past 23 years,” he added.

He also criticized Aoun, saying “I don’t know why MP Alain Aoun withdrew from the subcommittee meeting even though we completed work on proposed issues.”

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