Ghinwa Obeid| The Daily Star
BEIRUT: After the yearslong electoral law saga was put to bed last week, President Michel Aoun will meet with heads of political parties represented in the government Thursday to lay down his plan for the coming months before the elections. A source at the Baabda Palace told The Daily Star the meeting would be held Thursday a day after a Cabinet session is expected to be held.
“The idea is that after the electoral law was endorsed and Parliament’s term has been extended for 11 months, the president saw it suitable for heads of parties participating in the government [to meet],” the source said.
Aoun, the source added, doesn’t want the period before elections, which is slated for summer 2018, to merely revolve around talks about the national vote, “where there will be no attention [given] to [the need to] activate the constitutional institutions, particularly the legislative and executive powers.”
Elnashra news agency, quoting NBN TV station, said that Speaker Nabih Berri welcomed Aoun’s invitation and praised his position to focus on national development.
The agency also reported that Marada Movement head Sleiman Frangieh had received an invitation from Aoun and will reportedly attend Thursday’s session. This comes after animosity between the pair after Aoun bested Frangieh in the bitter battle for the presidency.
The new proportional vote law came as a replacement for the 1960 sectarian-based winner-take-all system that divides Lebanon into small- and medium-sized constituencies used in the last polls in 2009.
During the past months, most of the political discussion focused on reaching a final agreement on the electoral law before the Parliament’s term ended on June 20.
“There are many laws and draft laws that weren’t being discussed over the last six months because every time this topic as opened the answer was, ‘Let’s first finish the electoral law,’” the source said. “Now that we are done with the electoral law, the president wants to inform the heads of parties participating in the Cabinet of his directions for the next period and how to make the upcoming months productive on the legislative and executive levels because there is an integration.” The source also confirmed that a Cabinet session headed by Aoun is expected to be held Wednesday at Baabda Palace where a 67-item agenda will be discussed with the issue of electricity and proposals to rent two additional power barges being among the top items.
Aoun and Prime Minister Saad Hariri have signed a decree the paving way for the new law to be published in the Official Gazette, the last step for the law to go into effect. According to a statement from the presidency Saturday, the law’s text was referred to the Official Gazette to be “published urgently” and that is according to Paragraph 1 of Article 56 of the Constitution.
Free Patriotic Movement leader Gebran Bassil announced Sunday that work in the upcoming stage will focus on building on the current vote law, which he said includes several gaps.
“We had previously announced that this law needs more controls to better improve representation and we insist on our opinion and we will continue to work to express this opinion until it is achieved,” Bassil said, speaking from Akkar. “We should have the [boldness] to say that the current law in the way it was issued contains a lot of mistakes and we will calmly head, in the coming days and weeks, to prepare an amendment bill for this law in important and less important matters to resolve the gaps for it to be more comprehensive and reformative.”
Lebanese Forces Social Affairs Minister Pierre Bou Assi said that the new law was the best possible bill achievable.
“It is surely not the best law. However, [it averted] vacuum, destruction and paralysis of institutions and security and socio-economic threats,” Bou Assi said speaking from Jounieh.