So what is the fuss about the Orthodox Gathering proposed law for the upcoming elections? What are the real main reasons behind the opposition for such law?
The Lebanese Constitution that was adopted in 1989 states that the seats in the parliament are shared equally between Christians and Muslims. In addition, the constitution says:
Until the Chamber of Deputies passes an election law free of sectarian restriction, the parliamentary seats shall be divided according to the following bases:
a. Equally between Christians and Muslims.
b. Proportionately between the denominations of each sect.
c. Proportionately between the districts.
Since 1989, the Chamber of Deputies wasn’t able to pass an election law free of sectarian restriction. Furthermore, the election is in six months and they couldn’t agree on any new law to replace the 1960 law (based on a winner-takes-all system diving Lebanon into 22 districts). The latest fuss in the Lebanese politics today is the Orthodox Gathering proposed law for election which called for every sect to elect its own deputies.
The proposed law received an unprecedented backing from rival Major Christian parties. Michel Aoun (FPM), Samir Geagea (the Lebanese Forces), Amine Gemayel (the Kataeb Party) and Sleiman Franjieh (the Marada Movement). Hezbollah declared that even though this is not an ideal law, they will support it. Amal movement leader, Speaker of the house, Nabih berri said he will support the law as long as the Christians agree on it.
The President of the Republic and the Prime Minister opposed it calling it unconstitutional. Walid Joumblatt (the PSP Party) said the law will take Lebanese 2 centuries back. Future movement opposed it as well as any proportional proposed laws. Independent Christians, inside March 14 also opposed it.
If we look at Lebanon demographic, we notice that the majority of the Shiite deputies are elected by Shiite votes. The majority of the Sunnite deputies are elected by the Sunnite votes. So what is behind the real opposition for such law?
Three groups will be affected if the Orthodox Gathering Law was adopted: Future Movement (Saad Hariri – Sunnite), PSP Party (Walid Joumblatt – Druze) and the Christians of Lebanon.
Future Movement will lose the control over 11 to 16 Christian deputies: 3 deputies in Akkar region, 2 deputies in Tripoli, 5 deputies in Beirut (Distruct 2 and 5), 2 deputies in Western Bekaa – Rasheyya and 1 to 4 deputies in Chouf.
PSP Party will lose the control over 5 Christian Deputies in the Mountain and Aley areas.
The Shiaa will lose control over 4 Christian deputies in Baalback – Hermel and Zahrani – Marjeyoun areas.
In return, the Christians will be free from the dominance of other sects and will put in office around 21 deputies who really represent them.
The Lebanese president (Maronite) and his Prime Minister (Sunnite) each for his own reason oppose the proposed law and call it unconstitutional. The law isn’t perfect but it is not unconstitutional. The Lebanese constitution is based on dividing all government and public offices on religious and sect basis.
Independent Christians of March 14 coalition who don’t have major representation or supporters of Future Movement oppose this law because they will have no chance in being either elected or re-elected under such law. These feudal lords will farce a fierce battle from new comers. It is to note that the Orthodox Gathering proposed law propose the implementation of proportional representation in a single national district. This will also give a chance for those who oppose the sectarian system to be elected and will have a better chance to work from inside the parliament.
Is this a fair law, for sure it is not but all 4 major Christian parties support it for valid reasons. Christians were the only one who lost politically since the signature of the Taef Agreement and their right of fair representation was taken from them in previous elections.
They have been marginalized in 1992 election. An election law was adopted only 4 weeks before the election. Lebanon’s Christians opposed the law and boycotted the elections.
In the 1996 elections, the problem was the electoral law and the conduct of the elections. The 1996 electoral law was declared unconstitutional by Lebanon’s Constitutional Council established in 1993. Electoral districts were gerrymandered to suit the sectarian electoral interests of all sects except the Christians.
In the 2000 elections, electoral constituencies were designed to dilute the impact of Christian voters in particular constituencies.
From 1992 to 2000, Syria and their allies back then made sure to muffle the voice of Christian voters and elect a pro-Syrian parliament. Sunnite, Shiite and Druze worked with the Syrians to dismantle the Christian vote.
In the last previous election, the electoral districts were redesigned to keep the Christian votes under control and the lack of equality between the candidates which was triggered by an unprecedented influence of money and of the private media.
Today, we see that those who benefited politically from the Syrian occupation of Lebanon are opposing to free the christian votes in many electoral districts. It seems as if the Syrian occupation wasn’t the only reason why the Lebanese Christians were silenced during previous elections.
If Future movement really considers the Lebanese Forces, The Kataeb and other Christians as equal partners and allies, why they don’t give them back what it was taken from them under the Syrian occupation?