Electoral Subcommittee Faces Test of Intentions as Ghanem to Discuss with Berri Chairmanship Proposal

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Opposition lawmaker Robert Ghanem said Thursday he will meet with Speaker Nabih Berri next week to discuss with him a proposal to head meetings of a parliamentary subcommittee on an electoral draft-law, which are seen as a test of intentions.

Ghanem told An Nahar daily he hasn't yet been officially notified to head the meetings over the presence of Deputy Speaker Farid Makari, who is the subcommittee's chairman, in Paris.

The MP, who heads the parliamentary administration and justice committee, said he will meet with Berri on January 8 and discuss with him the proposal.

His remarks came after the speaker set Jan. 8 as a date for the subcommittee to meet in parliament to resume discussions on the electoral system, and the size and number of districts.

Discussions on a new electoral law stopped in the aftermath of the assassination of Internal Security Forces Intelligence Bureau chief Wissam al-Hasan on Oct. 19 when the March 14 opposition alliance boycotted the government and cabinet related meetings in parliament.

The coalition called for the resignation of Prime Minister Najib Miqati's government and the formation of a new one to oversee the 2013 parliamentary elections.

But it later agreed to a proposal made by Berri for the members of the subcommittee to stay at a hotel near parliament under heavy protection to attend the meetings.

In remarks to al-Liwaa newspaper, March 14 MP Marwan Hamadeh said the speaker's latest statements reveal that the subcommittee could meet twice or three times per day.

He said it was premature to anticipate the results of the meetings although Berri voiced hope for the talks that are set to resume on Jan. 8 to ease the opposition's boycott of the parliament.

But March 8 majority sources told al-Akhbar daily that Berri was being highly optimistic.

“The members of the subcommittee will not be able to achieve what they have been asked to,” they said, accusing the opposition of accepting the speaker's proposal to procrastinate on the adoption of a new electoral law and return to the winner-takes-all system of the 1960 law which was adopted in the last elections with minor amendments.

If the subcommittee agrees on the type of electoral system and the size of districts, it should refer its proposal to the joint parliamentary committees, whose meetings are in general attended by Interior Minister Marwan Charbel.

Asked by al-Joumhouria newspaper what March 14 intends to do about that, MP Samir al-Jisr refused to anticipate things.

“It is not mandatory for the government to attend the meetings of the joint committees,” he said.

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