BEIRUT: After years of political bickering, Lebanon’s rival factions have reached an agreement over the adoption of a new parliamentary electoral system, which prompted President Michel Aoun to sign a decree authorizing Parliament to convene for an extraordinary session to ratify a new election law.
The agreed-upon electoral system is based on proportional representation across 15 electoral districts. The draft law was originally proposed by former Interior Minister Marwan Charbel in 2011 under then Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s Cabinet.
The Cabinet is expected to endorse the draft law and refer the bill to Parliament for ratification before June 20, the last day of the legislature's term. The ratification of the law is expected to be coupled with the extension of Parliament's term till March 2018 to complete logistical preparations for the polls, according to Interior Minister Nouhad Mashnouq.
Annahar explains the specifics of the law and voting system.
The country will be divided into 15 electoral constituencies (comprising one or more districts/Qadaa) as follows:
- Beirut will be divided into two districts comprising Ashrafieh, Rmeil, Mdawar, and Saifi (8 seats); and Ras Beirut, Dar al-Marisah, Mina al-Hosn, Zaqqat al-Balat, Mazra'a, Musaytbah, Al Marfaa, and Bashoura (11 seats).
- Mount Lebanon will be divided into four districts comprising Jbeil and Keserwan (8 seats); Metn (8 seats); Baabda (6 seats); and Chouf and Aley (13 seats).
- South Lebanon will be divided into three districts comprising Sidon and Jezzine (5 seats); Tyre and Zahrani (7 seats), and Nabatiyeh, Marjayoun, Hasbayya, and Bint Jbeil (11 seats).
- The Beqaa will be divided into three districts comprising Baalbek and Hermel (10 seats); Zahle (7 seats); and West Beqaa and Rashaya (6 seats).
- North Lebanon will be divided into three districts comprising Akkar (7 seats); Tripoli and Minieh-Danniyeh (11 seats); Zgharta, Koura, Batroun, and Bsharre (10 seats).
Candidates shall form lists at least 40 days prior to elections day. The lists shall comply with the seat allocation to electoral constituencies, as well as with the confessional and religious distribution of these seats.
Each voter shall vote for one of the competing lists and shall be entitled to cast one preferential vote for a candidate of the same list he had chosen. The preferential vote is likely to be restricted to candidates of the district/qadaa that the voter hails from if the electoral constituency comprises more than one qadaa.
An agreement over how the election threshold will be calculated is yet to be reached. Two proposals are currently being discussed: The 10% threshold vs electoral quotient
-The 10% threshold requires each electoral list to secure 10% of the total number of voters in a given constituency or is otherwise eliminated.
-The electoral quotient is determined by the number of voters in a given constituency divided by the number of seats allocated for that constituency. Lists that fail to obtain the electoral quotient would be eliminated from the seat allocation procedure; while the electoral quotient shall be re-determined after deducting the votes received by the eliminated lists.
The number of seats won by each list shall be determined based on the electoral quotient. The remaining vacant seats would be allocated to qualified lists that obtained the largest remainder of the votes left after the first division. This procedure shall be repeated until all of the remaining seats are distributed.
Once the number of seats obtained by every qualified list is determined, the names of candidates of the same list shall be ranked in a descending order, following the preferential votes obtained by each.
Announcing the names of winners in each constituency shall be based on the following mechanism:
- The names of candidates of all qualified lists shall be ranked in one comprehensive list in a descending order based on the number of preferential votes obtained by each.
- The seats shall be distributed among winning candidates starting from the top of the comprehensive list that contains the names of all list candidates. The first seat shall be given to the candidate who received the highest number of preferential votes. The second seat shall be given to the candidate ranked second on the comprehensive list, irrespective of his/her original list. The same applies for the third seat and until all seats of the constituency are distributed among the candidates of other qualified lists.
Seat allocation shall also consider the following conditions:
- The vacancy of the seat, which is subject to the confessional distribution of seats. That is, once a specific confession has exhausted its share of seats in a single constituency, the remaining candidates of that confession shall be de facto eliminated from the seat allocation competition.
- The list must not have exhausted its share of seats. During seat allocation, a candidate belonging to a list that has already exhausted its share of seat shall be skipped, and the seat shall be given to the next candidate.
-If two candidates obtain equal numbers of preferential votes, the eldest candidate shall be ranked higher. If both candidates are of the same age, the Higher Registration Committee shall resort to the drawing of lots.
Voting shall be carried out using ballot papers prepared in advance by the Ministry of Interior for every constituency, and distributed to the polling stations staff along with the elections material.
The official ballot papers shall include the names of all lists and their members, as well as the specifications indicated in the specimen prepared by the Ministry, namely: the color and logo of the list, an empty checkbox for each list, the full name and confession of each candidate and the qadaa in which he is standing for elections. A passport photo of each candidate shall be displayed next to his name, in addition to an empty box where voters may exercise their right to cast their preferential vote on the same list.
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