Waiting for the Electoral Law-Are We Waiting For Godot?

The parliamentary elections are in less than 9 months, and still no sign of an electoral law.

It’s not as if nobody tried to make another law. There was the Orthodox Gathering’s one (Each Sect elects its representatives.), the government’s one (Proportionality in 13 mid-size constituencies), the Fouad Boutros committee’s Law (Half proportionality, Half majoritarian), the National Bloc’s one (128 Constituencies), the Bkirki committee’s proposal (Proportionality in small constituencies), Nabih Berri’s proposal (Proportionality in a single – Lebanon – Constituency). There were even two other drafted laws proposed last week in the Parliament. We have all the possible drafted laws in the world to choose out of them. We even had since 2005 to figure out a better law, and then the efforts were doubled since 2010.

Yet we’re in 2012, and the current functioning Law that is going to be applied in the  next elections – If no other electoral law passes – is the outdated 1960 Law amended in 2008. A law that according to his creator – Fouad Chehab – was indirectly blamed for the civil war.

But Why is changing the law such a difficult process?

By contrast with all the laws I mentioned in the beginning, the 1960’s Law isn’t based on Proportional Representation. It’s a winner-takes-all law.

Take a closer look at the parliamentary seats. Future Movement’s bloc has around 40 MPs. The FPM’s bloc has 27 MPs. AMAL’s Bloc has 12. Hezbollah’s bloc has 10. 89 out of the parliament’s 128 seats (That’s 70%) are in the hands of four parties, while more than half of them are controlled by two parties. One can only dream of having such results in a PR system. Hezbollah, AMAL, and the FPM are working to put an end to the majoritarian system. And PR won’t diminish their size, provided that the constituencies are big enough for them to influence more seats. If the constituencies are small, Aoun might lose at Baabda, Metn, Kesrouan and Jbeil more than he might win in the Chouf, Beirut, Zahle and the North. PR with mid-sized constituencies might change the outcome for his favor. A favor for Michel Aoun isn’t a favor for Geagea and Gemayel, so they will go against PR with mid-sized constituencies. Hariri can’t even hear of PR (dropping from 40 to 20 MPs), and Jumblatt isn’t an exception. Without PR, Jumblatt is no long the sole master of the 8 Chouf seats and the 5 Aley ones.

The electoral Law doesn’t only need an approval from 65 MPs in the parliament. It needs a blessing from all the possible parties too.

How does an electoral law pass? It should please the MPs. It should keep them their seats. Grosso Modo, the two laws that actually made a consensus among the parties and MPs in the Lebanese History were the 1960’s Law giving 33 extra MPs (from 66 up to 99 MPs) and the 1992’s Law giving 29 extra MPs (from 99 up to 128). For the others, if they were pleasing, which is excessively rare – the 1957 one caused the 1958 crisis, the 1950 one was a main reason Khoury was despised, and the laws made from 1992 till 2005 were considered to be Syrian products – it’s because they were gerrymandered in a way giving the majority of the members the right to keep their seats.

And notice what’s happening in the past few days: The FPM said that it isn’t involved in the Bkirki agreement anymore, while Berri said he is ready to adopt a law that the Christians agree on. The Christians won’t probably agree on anything, which makes Berri committed to…nothing. However it should be fun imagining Berri backing the Orthodox Gathering’s Law should the Christian parties agree on it. Suddenly, today, the FPM said that it will resume the Bkirki committee proceedings. Abundance of laws and political confusion: They won’t make the process easier

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