Waiting for the Electoral Law- Future Movement’s Proposal Or The 37 Districts Law- Part II

Ahmad Fatfat (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

Ahmad Fatfat (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

[Part I]

In part I, I analyzed the districts of Beirut and Mount-Lebanon. I will now continue with the other districts.

The 7 Districts Of The Bekaa. Baalbek and Zahle are separated each to two districts while Hermel, West Bekaa and Rashaya become independent constituencies.

  • Baalbek-Hermel. Baalbek is separated to two regions, Baalbek 2 (1 Maronite, 1 Greek Catholic, 1 Sunni, 1 Shia) including the Christian towns with some Sunnis and Shias, and Baalbek 1 (3 Shias, 1 Sunni) that is predominantly Shia. M14 would thus be able to compete in a Baalbek 2 stripped from the Shia heavyweights of Baalbek 1. Hermel had to be separated because the largest size of a constituency should be a Caza. Being able to control 4 of 10 seats in Hezbollah’s stronghold will be a major breakthrough for M14.
  • Zahle. Zahle is separated into two districts, Zahle 1 (1 Maronite, 1 Greek Orthodox, 1 Greek Catholic) and Zahle 2 (1 Shia, 1 Sunni, 1 Greek Catholic, 1 Armenian Orthodox). The FM is giving up the Sunni hegemony on the city of  Zahle (Zahle 1). That’s a gift for the Lebanese Forces who can say that the city is now “freed from the influence of the Sunni votes of Zahle 2” and is now a purely Christian constituency. Zahle 2, that has a Sunni heavyweight should be an easy win for M14. All in all,  In Zahle, the FM is getting 4 MPs but risking the loss of 3 in the city (That they can get back through Baalbek 2?).
  • West Bekaa-Rashaya. Separating the two districts is a gift to Walid Jumblatt and a sacrifice from the FM. The influence of the Druze votes is a lot more important in Rashaya (1 Greek Orthodox, 1 Druze, 1 Sunni) alone. The FM is also taking a minor risk by leaving West Bekaa (1 Maronite, 1 Sunni, 1 Shia) alone. By splitting the Sunni votes between the two districts and removing the Druze votes from the joint constituency of Rashaya and West Bekaa, the Shia votes might cause some minor problems for the FM in West Bekaa even though M14 should be expected to win both districts.

The 4 Districts Of The South. The four districts are Zahrani, Jezzine, Tyre and Saida. It’s the same decoupage of 2009, and it should be noticed how Saida is separated from its caza (Zahrani) in order to destroy the influence of the Shia votes coming from the villages of south Saida.

The 4 Districts Of Nabatiyeh. Nabatiyeh and Bint Jbeil stay like 2009, but Marjeyoun and Hasbaya get separated. That’s the best gift that can be given to Walid Jumblatt. Hasbaya has 2 MPs, and is mainly Druze with some Sunni votes. That means that the FM can have an MP back while Jumblatt can finally control the District after years of M8 hegemony coming from Marjeyoun that has a Shia heavyweight.

The 9 Constituencies Of The North. Bsharreh, Zghorta, Batroun, Koura, Minieh-Donieh stay the same. while Tripoli and Akkar get divided to 2 constituencies each.

  • Tripoli. Tripoli gets divided to two constituencies, Tripoli 1 and Tripoli 2 with 4 MPs each. However what’s good to note is that the Maronite MP doesn’t get transferred from Tripoli to Batroun like the Christian parties asked for in Doha.
  • Akkar. For the first time since ages, the Christians of Akkar have their own constituency, Akkar 2 (1 Maronite, 2 Greek Orthodox, 1 Sunni) while the Sunnis are mainly gathered in Akkar 1 (2 Sunnis, 1 Alawi). That’s a major sacrifice from the FM to the Lebanese Forces, because they are abandoning 4 MPs out of 7. However, Akkar 2 has some Sunni towns that are supposed to make it easier for M14 to win so that the region doesn’t go to Aoun’s hands.

In a nutshell, it is quite clear what Future Movement is doing. They are giving Aley, half of the Shouf and Hasbaya to Walid Jumblatt who is also gaining influence in half of Baabda and Rashaya. Meanwhile, they are giving the Christians more or less “Independent zones” in Baalbek, Akkar, Zahle and Mdawar. However, in most of the newly formed Christian districts, there are still some Sunni votes that will make it harder for M8 to triumph in these regions (Expect a fierce electoral battle between the Armenians and Sunnis in Mdawar if the law passes). The FM also removed the Armenian influence from a big part of the Metn and the Shia influence from the mountainous part of  Baabda. The FM made sure the Sunni districts stay under his control and even created a new zone of influence consisting of 4 MPs in the coastal part of the Chouf.

The law permits the Christians to elect 3 (Zahle)+3 (Jezzine) +3 (Baabda)+5 (Metn 2)+3 (Metn1) +5(Ashrafieh) +4 (Mdawar) +5 (Kesserwen) +3 (Jbeil) +2 (Batroun) +3 (Zghorta) +3 (Koura) +2 (Bsharri)+4 (Akkar) = 48 MPs. However Baabda has a Druze  minority, and Metn 2 will be Armenianless, while Mdawar and Akkar have Sunni minorities. That means that the battle over 12 seats is already won for M14 (I won’t count Mdawar). One should also note that Batroun, Koura, and Ashrafieh have more Sunnis than Shias which gives M14 a slight advantage in these districts . It is obvious that the FM is trying to provide his Christian allies with a law that will give them a better representation as Christians (The number of MPs elected by Christians becomes bigger) but also as Sunni allies (12 MPs and up to 26 MPs are in Christian regions that have a Sunni minority while only Jbeil and Jezzine are the Christian regions with Shia Minorities (6 MPs)).

As for Jumblatt, he is getting half of the Chouf (4), Aley (5), Hasbaya (2), and an important influence in Baabda and Rashaya that should reward him with MPs (1 in Baabda and 1 in Rashaya) in these regions. That’s 13 MPs for the PSP, which is a huge number for Jumblatt in case he supports Hariri so that the law passes. And if you think that the FM is losing under the law, don’t. He’s gaining 4 MPs in the Chouf, 1 in Hasbaya and can with an effort get 4 others in Baalbek while most of the liberated Christian districts have a Sunni minority that can bring Hariri an MP in almost every newly formed constituency (While risking 4 seats in Beirut and losing 3 in Zahle).

Future Movement is also asking for the creation of the Senate in which each sect would elect its own representatives and for a constitutional amendment that dissociates the establishement of a Senate from the removal of political confessionalism. A constitutional amendment (That changes the Taef  agreement on the senate by creating sectarian upper and lower houses) can’t be done before March, and needs the 2/3 of the parliament. M8 refused the 1960 law and the 50 districts law. Don’t expect them  to accept a law that’s a merger of both. The FM knows that, and what’s happening is obvious. After keeping the LF and the Phalanges away from the OG law by raising their share in the parliament under the 37 District laws, and after attracting Jumblatt with the same draft law, the opposition might push for the 37 Districts Law. The electoral joint committee will waste time discussing a senate law (and the amendments to the electoral law). The 37 Districts Law’s main goal is not making it through the parliament, it’s making sure that the OG law doesn’t make it.

Waste of Time = 1960 Law.