By Patrick Galey
BEIRUT: The government’s policy statement is too vague on the issue of the voting law and could lead to vital legal amendments not being implemented before the 2013 parliamentary elections, a leading electoral reform group warned Wednesday.
The Civil Campaign for Electoral Reform, while welcoming the Cabinet’s decision to make the elections a priority during the remainder of its term, voiced disquiet over the potential for delay over sorely needed change.
“The campaign wants to clarify what the Cabinet means by relaunching a national workshop to prepare a new electoral law, because the campaign fears this could lead to wasting time and efforts previously made in this framework,” the group said in a statement.
The campaign urged the adoption of proportional representation in the 2013 parliamentary round, and expressed concern that the government might not stick to a firm time-table “so that the law would be finished at least a year before the next parliamentary elections in 2013,” the Campaign added.
The government has said it will thoroughly examine “previous [electoral] reform projects.”
Former Interior Minister Ziyad Baroud, who during his time in office formulated a full electoral draft law calling for proportional representation, said he had already presented his successor Marwan Charbel with a copy of the legislation.
Speaking to The Daily Star, Baroud stressed the importance of groups such as the Civil Campaign for Electoral Reform in the process of amending legislation, and voiced his agreement with the nongovernmental organization’s concerns over the potential for delay.
“In the ministerial statement of the former Cabinet it was made very clear that we were supposed to hand over a draft law within an 18-month deadline. We met the deadline and I finalized a comprehensive draft law in a participatory process,” he said. “I knew that a new minister would be unable to address the whole subject because he wouldn’t have enough time to draft a new law. It’s really nonsense to have everything start from zero each time we have a new Cabinet.
“Charbel said he would form a committee to discuss a new draft law, when there already is a draft law. Any minister has the right to decide what he wants, but at the same time, certain reforms do not need to be readdressed,” he added.
Baroud’s draft law contains several reforms proposed by the 2006 Butros Committee, which suggested that there should be a women’s quota on candidate lists, and that the participating age should be lowered to 18 for voters and 22 for candidates. It also seeks to implement a proportional system to replace to current winner-takes-all system that has attracted condemnation for widening Lebanon sectarian gulf.
The former minister stressed that the issue needed addressing as soon as possible. “In the meantime, other political groups may propose things but the clock is ticking. If we really want proportional representation, we need to give it a couple of months in order to be able to explain to voters how it works. You have to break this psychological wall. I do share their concerns and the pressure should always be on,” he said.