Bassil Hails Christian Representation in Govt., Says Two Proposed Hybrid Laws Can’t Pass

Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil on Thursday lauded the Christian representation in Saad Hariri’s government, saying it “corrects” the implementation of the National Pact, while noting that the hybrid electoral laws that have been proposed by the rival parties have no chance of being approved.

“The new government corrects the implementation of the National Pact because it is the first government that contains proper Christian representation,” said Bassil after the weekly meeting of the Change and Reform parliamentary bloc in Rabieh.

“During the cabinet formation process, we agreed on several issues, including that the ministerial policy statement should be derived from the president’s oath of office and that we are forming an elections government that contains no norms, precedents or constant standards,” Bassil added.

Commenting on the absence of the Kataeb Party from the cabinet line-up, the FPM chief said the share that was offered to Kataeb cannot be compared to that that was offered to the Marada Movement, which was granted the important public works portfolio.

“Marada took their portfolio from Speaker Nabih Berri’s share and the two cases cannot be compared,” Bassil explained.

Kataeb had decided to stay outside the broad 30-member Cabinet after it was offered a state minister post.

Kataeb has five seats in parliament whereas Marada has three.

Bassil also lamented that the Syriac community was not represented in the government and that the Cabinet contains only one woman.

Turning to the issue of the electoral law, Bassil said the past two weeks “witnessed profound discussions over the electoral law and progress has been made.”

“We’re insisting on rejecting both the 1960 electoral law and a new extension of the parliament’s term,” the FPM chief said.

The law that was proposed by the Orthodox Gathering, under which each sect would elects its own MPs, “is the only law that achieves correct representation, but we’re willing to sacrifice in order to reach any law that achieves equal power-sharing, fair representation and consistent standards,” Bassil added.

He also noted that two so-called hybrid electoral laws that have been proposed by major political forces have no chance of being approved because they are “not based on consistent standards.”

The first law was proposed by Speaker Nabih Berri while the other law was proposed by al-Mustaqbal Movement, the Progressive Socialist Party and the Lebanese Forces. Both laws mix the proportional representation and the winner-takes-all systems.

“January should not pass without the approval of a new electoral law, or else the intention would be to keep the 1960 law or extend the parliament’s term and we will confront that,” Bassil warned.

Hizbullah has repeatedly called for an electoral law fully based on proportional representation but other political parties, especially Mustaqbal, 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 has clout.

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.