Subcommittee to Resume Meetings Wednesday as Pharaon Proposes Staging Elections over 2 Stages

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The electoral subcommittee ended its meeting on Tuesday without reaching an agreement over a new parliamentary electoral law, despite MP Robert Ghanem labeling the session as “very positive” and with March 14 MP Michel Pharaon submitting a proposal over holding the elections over two phases.

Ghanem said after the meeting: “The approval of an electoral law will not resolve disputes in Lebanon.”

“We will resume meetings on Wednesday in order to reach a common ground between all subcommittee members. We are seeking to reach an agreement over a law that guarantees fair representation,” he added.

He revealed that Tuesday's discussions addressed the draft-law that combines the winner-takes-all and proportional representation systems.

The subcommittee meetings will continue past Wednesday should the common ground be reached among subcommittee members, Ghanem told reporters from parliament.

Later, Pharaon revealed to reporters after the meeting that he suggested staging the elections over two phases.

The first will be based on an amended version of the Orthodox Gathering law, while the second stage will be held based on an amended version of the 1960 law that was approved during the 2008 Doha conference and adopted during the 2009 elections.

The MP explained that the candidates who win 20 percent of the vote will advance to the second phase of the elections.

The first phase of the elections would appease Christian concerns through the adoption of the Orthodox Gathering proposal, he added.

“These concerns are national ones, not just Christian. Had we implemented the agreements of the national dialogue, we would not have reached this current situation in Lebanon,” Pharaon noted.

The March 8 and 14 camp's inability to reach an accord on an electoral draft-law just months before the parliamentary elections might force Speaker Nabih Berri to extend the subcommittee's mission for a few days in a last-ditch effort to put the foundations for a hybrid proposal that combines the winner-takes-all and proportional representation systems.

Berri could resort to another option by throwing the ball in the court of the joint parliamentary committees to resolve the problem.

The subcommittee had initially met to discuss several draft-laws including a bill proposed by the government, a March 14 draft-law and the so-called Orthodox Gathering proposal.

The government's bill adopted in August calls for dividing Lebanon into 13 districts based on a proportional representation system while the draft-law proposed by March 14 Christian MPs advocates 50 small districts based on a winner-takes-all system.

The Orthodox proposal which has garnered the support of the four major Christian parties – the Phalange and the Lebanese Forces from the opposition, and their rivals form the March 8 majority the Free Patriotic Movement and the Marada - was severely criticized by the opposition al-Mustaqbal Movement, the Progressive Socialist Party of centrist MP Walid Jumblat and independent Christian personalities.

Their rejection of the proposal over what they said was widening sectarian differences among the Lebanese, paved way for a suggestion to hold the parliamentary elections based on the hybrid law.

The last elections were held based on the 1960 law, which adopts the qada as an electoral district and is based on a winner-takes-all system. But all factions have agreed to reject it.

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