Lebanon – Berri Hints He May Withdraw Electoral Proposal, PSP Says Speaker Won’t Allow Any Step that Harms Coexistence

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Speaker Nabih Berri on Wednesday hinted that he might withdraw the hybrid draft electoral law he has proposed, as a Progressive Socialist Party delegation that visited him stressed that the parliament speaker will not allow any step that harms coexistence among religious communities in the country.

“It is known that the joint (parliamentary) committees had set a final 15-day deadline for consensus over the electoral law, and if no consensus is reached, it will immediately start discussing the Orthodox Gathering electoral law,” Berri said during his weekly meeting with MPs.

The speaker clarified that “in a bid to reach consensus,” he has proposed a draft law that takes into consideration the following: “It is known that the smaller the districts the more they would serve March 14’s interest and the bigger the districts the more they would serve March 8’s interest.”

“On the other hand, a higher number of MPs elected according to the winner-takes-all system would serve March 14’s interest and a higher number of MPs elected according to proportional representation would serve March 8’s interest,” Berri added.

“Thus, according to the proposal, half the number of MPs would be elected according to the winner-takes-all system and the current electoral districts, and the other half according to proportional representation and (the six) provinces (of Lebanon),” Berri went on to say.

He noted that his proposal does not grant the parliamentary majority to any camp as it would ensure the victory of a number of centrist MPs.

“Although no consensus has been reached yet over this proposal, but it has achieved some progress and all blocs have agreed to the principle of proportional representation,” Berri said, adding that both the March 8 and March 14 camps have criticized his proposal.

“The proposal has become a point of contention, that’s why I will save everyone’s time and say: You have neither accepted it, nor submitted a proposal that enjoys consensus, and once again we must choose between the Orthodox Gathering law and Article 22 of the Constitution,” Berri warned.

He stressed that “it’s about time we established a national, non-sectarian parliament while preserving the principle of equal power-sharing.”

“Since 1948 until now, we have been proposing unconstitutional, sectarian laws and that must stop,” Berri added.

Later on Wednesday, a PSP delegation visited Berri in Ain al-Tineh.

“It does not seem that there is enough national immunity to prevent a spillover of the Syrian conflict into Lebanon,” Social Affairs Minister Wael Abu Faour said on behalf of the delegation after the talks.

“Since all political forces have submitted unfeasible electoral proposals, we should seek a law that satisfies everyone and ensures fair representation,” Abu Faour added.

“What we know about Speaker Berri is that he won’t allow any step that harms coexistence in Lebanon and he is keen on ensuring that any law will respect the National Pact,” he went on to say.

He said that Berri considers the “so-called Orthodox law as unconstitutional and I don’t think he might risk approving it, especially that it would open the door for partitioning proposals.”

Abu Faour revealed that the PSP is discussing with al-Mustaqbal movement “several formulas that would preserve the interests of all political forces.”

“We’re counting on Speaker Berri,” Abu Faour added.

He described The government’s proposal, which is based on proportional representation and 13 electorates, as “nothing but a smoke screen.”

“The PSP approves the electoral districts it contains but it rejects proportional representation,” he noted.

Abu Faour stressed that elections must happen on time “because the paralysis of politics would push the Lebanese to choose non-political alternatives.”

 

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