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Future, PSP to make new proposal for vote law amendment
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Speaker Nabih Berri will attempt to convene Parliament Wednesday in a bid to pass a draft law that would suspend key articles in the election law, with MPs from rival parties striving to reach a proposal that would gain unanimous support.

Two proposals are in the works, both aimed at buying more time to broker a deal on an vote law different than the 1960 law that governed the last polls.

The Future Movement and the Progressive Socialist Party said Tuesday their plans differed slightly from one suggested earlier in the day, though both would suspend the deadline by which candidates could submit their intention to run for Parliament until May 19.

“Our proposal will have some legal amendments regarding the new deadline for candidacies after May 19 in order to avoid a potential problem when the law is no longer applicable after that date,” Future Movement MP Ahmad Fatfat told The Daily Star.

The earlier proposal was put together during a meeting involving Berri and representatives of all parliamentary blocs at Parliament, shortly after the speaker postponed a scheduled legislative session.

The postponement came after Parliament’s secretariat failed to agree on a unified proposal to suspend the deadline for candidacies.

Future Movement MPs stood firm on their position that the deadline for candidacies should be postponed under the 1960 law until there was agreement on how elections would be run.

Their political rivals in Amal, Hezbollah and the Free Patriotic Movement maintain that the process of submitting candidacies should be completely frozen.

Most political factions in the country oppose the 1960 law, saying it does not provide fair representation for Lebanese sects.

Later, Berri, FPM leader Michel Aoun, Caretaker Health Minister and Amal official Ali Hasan Khalil, Marada Movement leader Suleiman Franjieh, Caretaker Energy Minister Gebran Bassil and FPM MP Ibrahim Kanaan met at Berri’s office to coordinate their stances on polls and Cabinet formation.

The proposal that came out of the Berri-chaired meeting would also annul Article 50 of the 1960 law, which stipulates that candidates with no competitors automatically win when the deadline for submitting candidacies is passes. Sources said the Kataeb Party and the Lebanese Forces support the scheme.

MP Ghassan Moukheiber of Aoun’s bloc told The Daily Star that there needed to be a change to Article 50.

“Article 50 of the 1960 law stipulates that if the deadline for candidacies expires, then candidates with no competitors will win unopposed,” he said.

“This means that with most political factions in the country not submitting candidacies [under the current law], anyone running will win unopposed once the deadline expires ... hence the need to address this issue through a law,” he added.

So far, only candidates from the PSP and assorted independents have officially announced their intention to run for the legislature.

Parliament’s term expires on June 20, and the deadline for submitting candidacies is April 16. Polls are set for June 16.

Berri briefly convened Parliament before postponing it to Wednesday at 3 p.m. to allow more time for the various blocs to agree on a unified proposal. Over 80 MPs attended the short session.

After the postponement, Khalil said representatives of the blocs would continue talks. “If an agreement is reached [by Wednesday], then a unified proposal will be unanimously endorsed in Parliament. If no agreement is reached, the session will still convene,” he added.

The meeting of Parliament’s secretariat, chaired by Berri, was later joined by Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati and MPs from different factions.

MP Mohammad Raad, the head of Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc, came out telling reporters “we are at odds.”

Despite the disagreement, MP Naji Gharious, from Michel Aoun’s Change and Reform parliamentary bloc, and his rival Lebanese Forces MPs Elie Keyrouz and Fadi Karam walked together to Parliament. “Have you ever seen us walking together?” Gharous joked to reporters.After its weekly meeting, the Future parliamentary bloc called on all political factions to intensify efforts to agree on an electoral law that combined proportional representation and a winner-takes-all system.

“The bloc highlighted the need to preserve and boost the positive atmosphere in the country [resulting from Cabinet’s March 22 resignation], rather than damaging it through spiteful steps, particularly when it comes to the electoral law,” said a statement by the bloc after it met under Former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora at Hariri’s Downtown residence.

“There should be intensified efforts to draft a new electoral law that combines a winner-takes-all system with proportional representation, away from draft laws that deepen national divisions,” it said, adding that a new electoral law would allay the concerns of all groups.

The Civil Campaign for Electoral Reform said in a statement that it was illegal to suspend candidacies because there was no alternative electoral law, saying that bending the rules was unacceptable.

source By Wassim Mroueh

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