ISGL urges agreement over new electoral law, calls for 'timely' polls

Negotiations over a new parliamentary electoral law have stalled as Lebanon’s major political parties remain deadlocked over the nature of the voting system and the makeup of electoral districts.

18 April 2017 | 15:42

Source: Annahar

  • Source: Annahar
  • Last update: 18 April 2017 | 15:42

In this May 31, 2013, file photo, Lebanese lawmakers meet in the Lebanese Parliament during a session to debate whether to extend their term 17 months, in Beirut, Lebanon. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

BEIRUT: The International Support Group (ISG) for Lebanon has urged the country’s political leaders to step up efforts to reach an agreement over a new parliamentary electoral framework, noting “the importance of timely elections to preserve Lebanon’s democratic process.”

“In the spirit of sustaining progress, the ISG members encourage Lebanon’s leaders to make maximum use of the resulting time frame to intensify their efforts to arrive at an agreed electoral framework for free and fair elections, in accordance with the Constitution,” read a statement released by the group Tuesday.

Negotiations over a new parliamentary electoral law have stalled as Lebanon’s major political parties remain deadlocked over the nature of the voting system and the makeup of electoral districts.

The failure to reach an agreement had prompted Speaker Nabih Berri to call on Parliament’s general assembly to meet earlier this month to extend the legislature’s term for a third consecutive time.

The legislature meeting, which was scheduled for last week, was, however, postponed to May 15, after President Michel Aoun adjourned parliament for a month in line with article 59 of the constitution.

Aoun was the first president to exercise this prerogative since Lebanon’s independence after the country’s major Christian parties threatened to take to the streets to block the extension of parliament’s term, raising once again concerns over the outbreak sectarian tensions in Lebanon.

Aoun insists that the extension of Parliament’s term should be coupled with the ratification of a new parliamentary electoral system and should be limited to only a few months to prepare for polls based on a new law.

The current law, which originally dates back to 1960, was amended and adopted in 2008 as part of a comprehensive deal struck in Doha. The Doha Accord ended an 18-month political feud that had exploded on May 7, 2008, into deadly sectarian fighting, between Shiite Hezbollah gunmen and Sunni pro-Future Movement supporters, threatening to plunge Lebanon into all-out chaos.

The government has already adjourned parliamentary elections twice, citing security concerns linked to the conflict in neighboring Syria. In 2013, lawmakers voted to extend parliament's term by 17 months and then voted again in 2014 to extend their tenure an additional two years and seven months.

The latest round of negotiations focused on the adoption of a new parliamentary electoral system that incorporates two rounds of voting, a source familiar with the ongoing talks told Annahar.

The source said the first round will be based on a plurality voting system in the 26 districts that represent the electoral constituencies under the current law whereby Christian and Muslim voters will only cast ballots to candidates from the same religion.

Candidates that pass the first round of voting will be eligible to participate in the second round which will take place based on a proportional representation system in ten electoral constituencies, the source added.

Negotiations on the two-round electoral system have made little headway, the source noted.

The source said rival parties remain deadlocked over the number of candidates that will qualify from each district to the second round of voting and the makeup of the ten electoral constituencies where the second stage of polls will take place.

While Christian parties including Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement and the Lebanese Forces insist that only the top two candidates qualify to the second round, the Future Movement wants to raise the number of eligible candidates to three.

Berri’s Amal Movement, on the other hand, demands that all candidates who secure 10 percent of the district’s electorate qualify to the second round.

The ISGL launched in September 2013 by the UN Secretary-General to help Lebanon cope with the large influx of Syrian refugees and to provide assistance to host communities as well as to step up support for the Lebanese Army.

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