Bassil: Agreement with Jumblat Fails, Hybrid Law Hasn’t Been Dropped

Foreign Minister and Free Patriotic Movement leader Jebran Bassil clarified that an agreement on an electoral law for the upcoming parliamentary polls has not been reached as yet with Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Monday.

“A hybrid electoral law was put for discussion six months ago, and they (PSP) have agreed on it six months ago. But last week and in a matter of two days they changed their mind,” Bassil told the daily in an interview.

Jumblat’s PSP has backed down from its previous support for a so-called hybrid law that mixes the proportional representation and winner-takes-all systems.

The PSP, which is now in favor of the winner-takes-all system, has recently warned that any law containing proportional representation would “marginalize” the minority Druze community.

Bassil stressed that discussions between the political parties and those rejecting the law continue “but no results have been reached so far.”

However, the Minister assured that efforts will succeed at devising an election law just like they succeeded at electing a president for Lebanon, he said: “The election law, for us, is the battle of the quarter of the century. Just like we succeeded at electing a president, we will succeed at devising an electoral law.”

The Minister stressed that possibilities for endorsing a hybrid law or any other have not been dropped, he said: “The hybrid law has not failed because until this moment an agreement has not been reached on a new law. All the laws are still on the table.”

Highlighting the need to implement the Taef accord he said: “The basic and most important format is who wants and who is keen on implementing Taef. Vacuum is a blow against Taef.”

On Sunday, Jumblat openly called for holding the parliamentary polls under a “revised” version of the controversial 1960 electoral law, rejecting all calls for proportional representation.

Jumblat noted that all the proposed formats of the electoral law that contain proportional representation are not compatible with the 1989 Taef Accord.

Hizbullah has repeatedly called for an electoral law based on proportional representation but other political parties, especially al-Mustaqbal Movement, have rejected the proposal and argued that the party’s controversial arsenal of arms would prevent serious competition in regions where the Iran-backed party is influential.

Mustaqbal, the Lebanese Forces have meanwhile proposed a hybrid electoral law that mixes the proportional representation and the winner-takes-all systems. Speaker Nabih Berri has also proposed a hybrid law.

The country has not voted for a parliament since 2009, with the legislature instead twice extending its own mandate.

The 2009 polls were held under an amended version of the 1960 electoral law and the next elections are scheduled for May 2017.