WED 23 - 5 - 2018
Date: May 15, 2017
Source: The Daily Star
Lebanon: Crucial Parliament session postponed again
BEIRUT: A crucial Parliament session that was set to take place Monday aimed at finalizing a new electoral law has been postponed for 14 days, as Lebanese politicians scramble to reach an agreement.

Speaker Nabih Berri, Prime Minister Saad Hariri, and deputy chief of the Lebanese Forces MP George Adwan only managed to agree on a postponement, following a three-hour meeting at the speaker's residence in Ain al-Tineh Sunday night.

Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil, a key political aid to Berri, as well as the prime minister's chief of staff, Nader Hariri, were also present at the meeting.

The talks focused on Berri's electoral law proposal which was his take on a proportional electoral law to counter Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil's two-stage "qualification law."

Future Movement MP Ammar Houri said Monday that the party's bloc has not "looked over the outcomes of the meeting in Ain al-Tineh yesterday."

Speaking to local radio station Voix Du Liban 100.3, Houri said that the meeting was meant to spark further discussions which were at a stalemate.

"We have reached the danger zone of the 1960 [majoritarian] law, a political vacuum, and the unknown," Houri added.

Change and Reform bloc MP Hikmat Dib said in an interview with local Al Jadeed television that the Free Patriotic Movement "can't determine whether the meeting was a failure or a success because we weren't there."

"Perhaps we can find common ground for the new electoral law," he added.

Dib also expressed concern that the "three no's"- the current majoritarian 1960 electoral law, a Parliament term extension, and a political vacuum- will turn into the "three yes's."

Youth and Sports Minister Mohammad Fneish Monday called for more "understanding" and for less "controversial discourse" during what he described as a "period of tension."

The Hezbollah minister spoke in the southern town of Barich near Tyre.

"The impact of this could be an existential crisis for Lebanon," Fneish said. "We [Hezbollah] are not the sole decision-makers...but we try with our presence in Parliament or Cabinet to push towards better management of the country."

He added that a political vacuum would not only impact Parliament, but all government institutions.

Progressive Socialist Party chief Walid Jumblatt early Monday compared in a tweet the recent elections in France to the political imasse in Lebanon.

"A great president, Francois Hollande, transfers power to a promising president, Emmanuel Macron," he said. "When will we see such a glorious scene in Lebanon?"

Prior to the meeting, Berri had anticipated a postponement of Monday's Parliament session.

"I hope that the meeting [with Hariri] will be positive," he was quoted as telling visitors at his Ain al-Tineh residence. "If it's positive this will faciliate things a lot, and we can make a minor session postponement."

Politicians have shared mixed opinions about whether an electoral law can be reached through a voting process rather than the consensus-based approach.

"The best solution is by reaching a [vote] law by consensus," Hariri said.

Meanwhile, Cabinet is set to meet Wednesday at the Grand Serail to discuss various economic and finance-related issues.

A source told The Daily Star that the electoral law is not on that meeting's agenda.

Parliament's mandate ends on June 20.

Members of Parliament have thus far extended their mandate twice since 2013.

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