By Wassim Mroueh
BEIRUT: Interior Minister Marwan Charbel said Monday that a committee tasked with preparing an electoral draft law for the 2013 parliamentary elections has almost finalized its work, adding that the draft law would call for a system of proportional representation which he argued would ensure the most “democratic” representation.
“We can say that 90 percent [of the draft law] has been authored and 10 percent is still being thought out,” Charbel told a news conference at the Interior Ministry in Beirut, before holding a meeting to discuss the draft law with the committee and representatives of political parties.
The committee was formed by Charbel in July and set a three-month deadline to finish its mission.
Charbel said that the bill calls for an electoral system based on a proportional representation. Every election held in Lebanon has been based on a winner-take-all system.
“A proportional representation system ensures just representation and this will become evident if politicians are convinced to adopt this draft law,” he said, noting that such a system improves the quality of governance in Lebanon.
“[Under previous laws], some people who should be in Parliament were not able to do so, thus depriving Parliament of their expertise, knowledge and all that they acquired in life,” the minister noted.
Proportional representation also guarantees the best representation for Lebanese, especially amid the current sectarian and political divisions, according to Charbel.
“Given my experience in elections, I cannot be convinced that there is a system more democratic than proportional representation,” he said, while acknowledging that every system has its disadvantages. He supervised the Interior Ministry’s role in the 2009 polls.
According to Charbel, a proportional representation system would encourage society to form new political parties.
“Honestly, we do not have political parties now, but sectarian ones,” Charbel said, adding that the system would boost the representation of women in Parliament as well.
Proportional representation allows figures who have expertise in fields other than politics, like social issues and trade unions, to reach Parliament as well, continued Charbel.
While Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt has openly criticized proportional representation, arguing that it weakens minorities, reactions from other parties have ranged between full support and cautious interest.
MPs Ali Fayyad and Ghazi Zeaiter were attending Monday’s meeting on behalf of Hezbollah and Speaker Nabih Berri’s Amal Movement respectively, along with representatives from other parties. For reasons that were unclear, there was no representative from Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement in attendance.
Charbel said he discussed the draft law last week with electoral laws experts, adding that he would hold a meeting Tuesday with civil society organizations for the same purpose.
“I adopted this way [of discussions] … because I am personally convinced that all Lebanese should be informed about the matter, whether politicians, [members of] civil society associations, law organizations or electoral laws experts.”
The draft law grants “very extensive” prerogatives to a committee tasked with overseeing and supervising elections, explained Charbel.
“The judiciary, lawyers … and all civil society organizations all have a role in overseeing the parliamentary elections and sometimes their decisions are binding,” he said.
The remaining portion to be tackled in the draft law has to do with districting, which Charbel acknowledged presented difficulties, but he said that all hurdles have been resolved.
“The system of proportional representation to be adopted in Lebanon is one of the most difficult [systems] because it has to take into consideration several factors, including sectarianism,” he said.
Charbel said that the draft law adopted “what is important” from the draft laws that had been put forward and also made use of previous mistakes. The minister urged the representatives of political parties to cooperate “in order to reach a democratic and modern society.”