WED 23 - 5 - 2018
Date: May 17, 2017
Source: The Daily Star
Lebanon: Electoral law fight the tip of iceberg for next six years
Hasan Lakkis
The questions on everyone’s mind, the very same that have been a source of contention for years but have become more pressing in recent months to the point they occupy the country’s attention: What stage are the consultations over an electoral law at? What is the truth behind the posture of the various political blocs? Will they ever achieve Lebanon’s ever elusive consensus? Will an electoral law ever make its way to Parliament to be voted on, and if so, on what basis will elections be held? A political source attempted to answer this delicate political conundrum. The source, an official charged with managing such issues, insisted that parties across the political spectrum were applying the same doctrine: As long as you have time to negotiate, you do not lay down your guns.

In other words, the strategy being applied by the political powers as they conduct their behind-the-scenes consultations and talks is to fight to the end.

To prove their point, the source referred to the changes that had been taking place since the beginning of the negotiations into the electoral law by the various Parliamentary blocs: Those that had once completely rejected a proportional voting system are now accepting it. Those that cried foul at the mere mention of another extension of Parliament’s term now support it. The party that had once accepted the “qualification” electoral law now rejects it. Everyone has their own agenda, but all are open to discussion.

Despite the shifting stances, the source said that not a single one of the various propositions on the nature of the electoral law was off the table.

The source added that the positivity both Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Speaker Nabih Berri have been espousing recently was the result of the confidentiality surrounding their meeting in Ain al-Tineh Sunday. MP George Adwan, representing the Lebanese Forces, was also present at the consultation.

The source confirmed that a proportionality-based voting law was at the center of their discussion. Yet the issue of the size of the electoral districts is yet to be resolved, while the fate of the preferential vote remains a mystery.

The Free Patriotic Movement and the Lebanese Forces think that the method of the distribution of districts and the preferential vote would yield balance, as – naturally – any electoral law in Lebanon is expected to guarantee political equilibrium. If no balance were achieved then the country would be heading toward a dangerous place indeed.

The lingering question is as follows: Which law based on proportionality would secure the fairest representation for Lebanon’s various and diverse constituents?

The source added that the FPM and the LF’s goal, allegedly, is to allow the Christian voters of Baalbeck and Hermel to elect a Christian representative, instead of what he claims was is a lost vote as a Christian is unlikely to win under the current system, essential drowning out the voice of the sect in local issues.

The same source said he saw no problem with shifting a Maronite seat from Tripoli to Batroun, justifying his rhetoric by stressing that a haphazard proportional voting system does not guarantee political balance.

The source added that the bickering and squabbling that has emerged to the detriment of finding a solution does not bode well. After all, the country’s military and security rhythm follows an international beat, yet the political rhythm is yet to be set.

The rhetoric is a harbinger of times to come that will be filled with political hurdles, hurdles that might impose themselves for the next six years. Despite the political deadlock, the source said there might be brief moments of respite during which the projects to maintain consensus might pass.

What remains imperative is that Berri should return to the helm of Parliament, whatever the electoral law may be and regardless of the identity of the new MPs, the source stressed. Bassil’s statement that “[President Michel Aoun’s] tenure will be in your face for the next six years” is a true reflection of the political circumstances awaiting Lebanon. Circumstances and conditions will have to be mitigated or else every single project would be a battle between Aoun and Berri, battles fought by proxies of their choosing.

The source predicted that Hezbollah will try to distance itself from this clash, many battles will be waged and the identity of any prospective winner remains a source of doubt and speculation – until the end of the president’s tenure, that is.

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