The Orthodox Proposal

Hereunder is the text of the proposal submitted by Change and Reform bloc MPs Alain Aoun and Neemtallah Abi Nasr:

Article 1:
Parliament is composed of 128 members elected for a four-year term over one time and by secret universal suffrage. [In a joint parliamentary committee meeting on February 18, this article was amended to expand the number of parliament members to 134.]

Article 2:
a – The number of seats and their distribution among sects and regions are set according to the table attached to law no. 25/2008. Candidatures for these seats are submitted accordingly, and the table is considered an integral part of the present law.

b – The MPs allotted to each sect are elected by the voters of the same sect by proportional representation with Lebanon as a single electoral constituency in conformity with the provisions of paragraph (c) below and in keeping with regional representation.

c – Voters exclusively elect candidates of their own sect. Christian voters of minority sects shall vote for minority candidates whereas Muslim voters of minority sects that are not represented by any parliamentary seat shall have the right to vote for the Muslim candidates of their choice regardless of their sects. Jewish voters shall have the right to vote for the Muslim or Christian candidates of their choice.

Article 3: On candidates’ lists
Candidates have to organize themselves in complete lists 40 days prior to the elections at the latest.

A list should include as many candidates from the same sect as the total number of MPs allotted to the sect in question with due consideration being given to their regional distribution.

No candidates can withdrawal from the list following its registration. The Ministry of the Interior and Municipalities has to arrange lists on the ballot paper in the same order in which they registered.

Article 4: On the registration of lists
Candidates have to form lists and choose from among them one authorized representative, by means of a power of attorney signed by all candidates before the notary public, to register this list at the Ministry within forty days prior to the date set for the elections at the latest following which no list can be registered or amended.

Upon registration, the authorized representative of the list should submit: the name, father’s name and surname of all members, receipts for the acceptance of their candidacies, the name of the constituency in which the list is running, a copy of the list slogan if such a slogan does exist and the list color.

The Ministry issues a receipt of the acceptance of the list registration within 24 hours if the request meets all the legal conditions. If the request does not meet all or some of these conditions, the Ministry grants the members of the list a 24-hour deadline to rectify the registration request or else it shall be turned down.

This deadline is effective as of the date on which the list representative mentioned in the previous article is notified.

The Ministry’s decision to turn down the registration request can be contested before the State Shura Council within 24 hours as of the date on which the aforementioned list representative mentioned is notified. The State Shura Council is to settle this contestation within 24 hours as well and its decision in this case is irrevocable and cannot be contested using any ordinary or extraordinary means.

Article 5: On the announcement of accepted lists
As soon as the aforementioned deadline for the registration of lists expires, the Ministry announces the names of the lists – the registration of which has been accepted – and the names of their members, and announces them to the governorate and district authorities as well as to the parliamentary election supervisory authority, and publishes it where needed.

Article 6: Polling stations
By decision of the minister, Lebanon as an electoral constituency is divided into several polling stations with multiple polling offices in each of them.
Each village of 100 voters at least and 400 voters at the most has a group of polling offices, with one polling office for the voters of each sect present in the village.

The number of voters in any one group of polling offices can be increased above 400 for the sake of the smooth running of the electoral process provided that this number remains under 600 voters. There can be no more than 20 voting offices in each polling station.

The minister’s decision on the distribution of polling offices is published in the Official Journal and on the Ministry’s website at least 20 days prior to the election date. This distribution shall not be amended during the week preceding the election date unless it is based on serious reasons and a justified decision.

Article 7: On delegates
1. Each list is entitled to delegate voters who shall enter the polling office [to observe the elections on behalf of the list] at a rate of no more than two delegates for each polling office. Each list is also entitled to choose ambulant delegates among its voters in any polling station to enter all polling offices in the station, at a rate of one delegate for each three polling offices in villages and one delegate for each five polling stations in cities.

2. The governorate or district governor grants special licenses to the delegates according to rules defined by the Ministry.

Article 8: On the supplies needed in polling offices
1. The Ministry provides polling offices with the office and printing supplies required for the electoral process. Each office is provided with a ballot box made of a solid transparent material with one opening.

2. The Ministry provides the heads of polling offices with the official ballot papers printed beforehand by the Ministry along with the corresponding stamped envelopes in the same number as the number of registered voters for each sect. The Ministry also gives the heads of polling offices an additional number of official ballot papers and unstamped envelopes corresponding to 20% of the number of registered voters.

3. Each polling office has one or more voting booth [in which a voter can mark his/her ballot in complete privacy].

4. No electoral process can be held in the absence of the voting booth under the threat of declaring the process in the polling office in question void.

Article 9: On the ballot papers
1. Voting takes place on the official ballot papers stipulated in the above article, which are preset by the Ministry for each electoral constituency and distributed to the staff of polling offices along with electoral materials.

2. The official ballot papers include the names of all lists and their members as well as the specifications mentioned in the model prepared by the Ministry, including: the color and slogan of the list and an empty checkbox for each, the name, father’s name and surname of each candidate in addition to his/her sect or the district or region in which s/he is running. The name of each candidate is accompanied by his/her passport picture along with an empty checkbox where voters can exercise their right to cast a preferential vote within this list as per the provisions of the present law.

3. Voters cast their ballots using these papers to the exclusion of any others and cannot use any other ballot papers to exercise their voting rights.

Article 10: On preparatory measures
1. Prior to the start of the voting process, the head of the polling office – along with the polling office staff and delegates – opens the ballot box and checks it is empty before closing it tightly as per the Ministry’s instructions.

2. Throughout the electoral process, an official list of the [all registered voters allowed to vote in a given polling office] is published on the entrance of every polling office along with a copy of the minister’s decision establishing and defining the office. A copy of the electoral law and a list with the names of the candidates’ delegates is placed on a table in the polling office room in addition to flyers or materials explaining the electoral process so that voters, candidates and their delegates can have access to them.

3. Before the start of the electoral process and until its end, each polling office shall be cleared of any image, symbol, writing or slogan of any kind except for the explanatory materials provided by the ministry. The head of the polling office shall be responsible for the above.

4. Prior to the start of the vote, the head of the polling office shall make sure that the number of numbered ballot papers and stamped envelopes corresponds to the number of registered voters.

5. Should there be an insufficient number of ballot papers and stamped envelopes due to a force majeure reason that aims to undermine the ballot or for any other reason, the head of the polling office should replace these ballot papers and envelopes with the additional unstamped ballot papers and envelopes delivered to him, which should be stamped using the office seal along with the date and the reason for this replacement mentioned in the record. The additional unstamped ballot papers and envelopes, which were not used, are added to the record.

Article 11: On the voting process
1. When the voter enters the polling office, the head of the office checks his/her identity based on his/her ID or ordinary valid Lebanese passport. In the event of discrepancies between the ID or the passport on the one hand and voters’ lists on the other, the ID or passport number is taken into consideration.

2. After the office committee has checked that the voter’s name appears on the voters’ lists relevant to the office and that s/he belongs to the sect for which this office is earmarked with due account being given to the vote of minorities and Jews as per paragraph (c) of Article 2 of the present law, the head of the office gives the voter a ballot paper, which he and the clerk sign on its backside and put in an envelope signed and stamped with the official seal. The head of the office asks the voter to heed the compulsory instruction of heading into the voting booth in order to exercise his/her right to vote freely, or else s/he might be banned from casting his/her ballot.

3. The voter puts the ballot paper in the envelope while s/he is still in the voting booth after choosing the list and candidates’ names as per the present law.
A voter cannot place more than one ballot paper in one envelope.

[After marking his her/her ballot], the voter approaches the office committee and shows the head of the office that s/he is holding one stamped envelope only, which the head of the office checks without touching before allowing the voter to insert his/her hand into the ballot box.

4. The head of the office has to make sure that the voter has had time alone inside the voting booth, or else s/he might be banned from casting his/her ballot. The voter cannot display the ballot paper upon exiting the voting booth.

5. The voter signs the voters’ lists and has his/her finger painted with a special sign, the materials of which are provided by the Ministry to all polling offices. This sign cannot be erased before 24 hours at least, and any voter bearing this imprint cannot cast his/her ballot again.

6. The head of the office has to prevent any voter from casting his/her ballot if s/he does not heed the provisions of paragraph 4 of this article, or else the head of the office shall be held personally responsible.

7. No voter can commission any third party with exercising his/her voting right.

Article 12: On voting for a list and preferential voting
1. Every voter casts his/her ballot for one of the competing lists and is allowed to cast one preferential vote for a candidate on the list of his/her choice.

2. If the voter does not cast any preferential vote, his vote remains valid and only the list is counted. If the voter casts more than one preferential vote within the list, none of these votes are counted and only the list is counted.

3. If the voter votes for a list and casts a preferential vote within this list and one or more preferential votes within another list, none of these votes are counted and only the list is counted.

4. If the voter does not vote for any list and casts a preferential vote within one list, both the list and the preferential votes are counted.

Article 13: On the proportional system
The double quota rule or the rule of the highest fraction with the electoral quotient

1.The number of seats allotted to each list is defined based on its electoral quotient.

2. In order to calculate the electoral quotient, the number of voters for each sect throughout Lebanon is divided by the number of seats allotted to this sect as per paragraph (c) of Article 2 of the present law.

3. Lists that do not get any electoral quotient are discarded from the seat counting process and the electoral quotient is calculated once again after deducting the number of votes these lists have won.

4. The remaining seats are allotted hierarchically to the qualified lists that scored the highest fraction of remaining votes from the first division. The process is to be repeated in the same manner until all remaining seats are allotted.

Should there remain one seat with two qualified lists having equal fractions, the seat is allotted to the list that won the most seats. If the two lists have the same number of seats and the same number of votes, the seat goes to the list whose top candidate gets the highest number of preferential votes. In case of an equal number of preferential votes for the top candidates of both lists, the seat goes to the list whose second-ranking candidate gets the highest number of preferential votes, etc.

5. After determining the number of seats allotted to each qualified list, the candidates’ names are mentioned on one list starting with the highest score according to the number of preferential votes won by each candidate.

6. The winner(s) from each sect are distributed according to the following mechanism:

a. The candidates’ names in all qualified lists are [consolidated into one single list] starting with the highest score according to the number of preferential votes won by each candidate.

In the event of equal preferential votes for two candidates, the eldest precedes the other in the ranking. In case they are of the same age, a draw organized by the higher registration committee [within the Ministry of Interior] settles the matter.

b.Seats are distributed among the winning candidates starting with the top of the [consolidated] list that includes all candidates from all lists. The first seat is thus allotted to the candidate with the highest number of preferential votes and the second seat goes to the candidate who ranks second on the list, regardless of the list s/he represents. This goes on with the third seat until all seats in the constituency are allotted to the candidates representing the rest of qualified lists.

7. The distribution of seats among lists takes into consideration the following two conditions:

- The seat should be vacant according to the regional distribution of seats. Indeed, after the share of one region within a single electoral constituency is completed, the remaining candidates in the region are automatically out of the competition as the region has already received its share of seats.

- If [an individual electoral] list has not received the number of seats to which it is entitled, when the distribution process reaches a candidate on [an individual electoral] list that has received its share of seats, this candidate is bypassed in favor of the one following him/her.

Article 14:
The detailed implementation of the present law is determined and explanatory and complementary rules are developed when needed according to decrees adopted in the Council of Ministers based on a proposal by the Minister of the Interior and Municipalities.

Article 15:
All texts that contravene the provisions of the present law, especially those under law no. 25 dated 8/10/2008, are abrogated.

Article 16:
This law is applicable immediately upon its publication in the Official Journal.

[In addition to the above law, MPs Aoun and Abi Nasr included an explanation of why they wrote and submitted it, reprinted below]

Compelling reasons
Since the constitutional and political system in Lebanon is still based on sectarianism, and since Article 24 of the constitution stipulates that “until such time as the [Parliament] enacts new electoral laws on a non-confessional basis, the distribution of seats shall be according to the following principles:

a. Equal representation between Christians and Muslims.

b. Proportional representation among the confessional groups within each of the two religious communities.

c. Proportional representation among geographic regions”;

And since the said Article confirms paragraph 2/a/5 of the first item of the Document of National Understanding adopted in Taif;

And since the equal distribution of parliamentary seats between Christians and Muslims does not only mean an equal number of MPs for each of the two religious communities, but also – and necessarily so – equality between their voters in electing parliament members, or else this article would lose its substance, its spirit and its efficiency;

And since the above also applies to the proportional distribution of parliamentary seats among the various sects of each of the two religious communities;

And since the specified rule is constitutional, in conformity with the National Pact and an integral part of national understanding pillars that should be respected to the fullest as long as our political system is based on sectarianism;

And since the various electoral laws adopted following the Document of National Understanding in Taif until the current law no. 25 promulgated on 8/10/2008 have blatantly violated, however variably, the aforementioned constitutional and National Pact rule and caused us to suffer from serious sectarian injustice as the voters of some sects controlled the victory of several voters from other sects without giving them the same power in return;

And since justice should be achieved between the various sects by preventing the voters of one sect from controlling the election of MPs from another sect;

And since this rule has already been adopted in Article 2 of the statute of the Mount Lebanon Mutasarrifiyya in 1864, whereby each sect elected its members in the broad board of directors, which was composed of 12 members with equal shares for Christians and Muslims (2 Maronites, 2 Greek Catholics, 2 Greek Orthodox, 2 Druze, 2 Shiites and 2 Sunnis);

And since this system was implemented under the Mutasarrifiyya for more than 50 years;

And since it is also necessary to curb the conflicts that sometimes take the shape of conflicts between sects by [focusing] competition within each sect, thus turning it into a political competition to serve among those belonging to the same sect instead of portraying it as a conflict between two sects, even through candidates that are affiliated to the same sect;

And since it is necessary to achieve national balance and correct representation for all sects and categories within them, and to undo the feelings of injustice and fear as a prelude to building true citizenship and starting to look into means to abrogate sectarianism;

And since the removal of injustice and the achievement of correct representation are likely to preserve stability;

And since the aforementioned desired purposes are achieved by an electoral system that is based on having the MPs allotted to each sect exclusively elected by the voters of this same sect while addressing the case of Jewish voters, voters affiliated to Muslim sects with no seats in parliament or voters affiliated to Christian minority sects with only one seat;

And since the majority vote, upon which all successive electoral laws in Lebanon were based, proved that it does not achieve fair representation in any way, as it excludes wide swathes from accessing parliament, thus undermining the sociopolitical representation of the various components of the Lebanese society whereas the proportional system is to provide fair representation as each list gets a number of seats that is equivalent to the percentage of votes won;

And since the adoption of Lebanon as a single electoral constituency while respecting regional representation is likely to prompt candidates, MPs and political and parliamentary blocs to take an interest in other Lebanese regions, thus promoting communication and comprehensive development;

And since there is a pressing need to amend the law, as the upcoming parliamentary elections are fast approaching and the voters and candidates need to know about the electoral system to be implemented within a reasonable deadline prior to the elections;

We, therefore, submit to the esteemed parliament an extremely urgent draft law aiming to amend the current electoral law no. 25/2008 so that elections are held based on having the MPs of each sect exclusively elected by the voters of this same sect while addressing the issue of Jewish voters and voters affiliated to Muslim and Christian minorities with Lebanon as a single electoral constituency, a proportional voting system and the preservation of regional representation as per the current law. As for the vote of Lebanese citizens who do not live in Lebanon, the general provisions ruling the vote of Lebanese citizens residing in Lebanon are applied, as they exercise their right to vote in the Lebanese embassies and consulates according to the provisions of the present law, the adoption of which we hope for.

In a joint parliamentary committee meeting on February 18, this article was amended to expand the number of parliament members to 134