|Lebanese Parliament holds final debate on 'new' electoral law
|Parliament was due to ratify late Monday the new electoral law under which next year's parliamentary polls will be held. The new law, an amended version of the 1960 qada-based electoral law, was agreed on by Lebanon's rival politicians during the Doha talks last May. By the time The Daily Star went to print, Parliament was still convening after an evening session kicked off at 8 p.m.
During the morning session which started at 10:30 a.m. Monday, Parliament approved all articles related to regulating the role of the media in next year's elections.
While the former law banned all forms of media publicity, the new law came to regulate the role of the media by setting a number of rules and conditions aimed at preventing media outlets from reflecting negatively on election results.
Among such rules is committing the broadcast media to give all candidates equal chances to publicize themselves and market their electoral programs.
Broadcast media must also commit to a "day of silence," which starts at midnight ahead of election day and ends as soon as people finish casting their votes in the evening.
Three types of sanctions could be imposed on television stations and candidates who violate these regulations.
The sanctions range from financial penalties to possibly forcing violating stations to stop broadcasting for three days.
However, a letter of warning and a probe should precede any of the sanctions.
Parliament also banned all sorts of opinion polls in the 10 days preceding the elections.
As far as expenditures are concerned, Parliament decided that fixed costs per candidate should not exceed 150 million Lebanese pounds, whereas variable costs, such as transportation expenses to take voters to the ballot boxes, were not specified.
The morning session was put off when MPs began discussing the possibility of using pre-printed ballots in the elections.
Pre-printed ballots would include the names and photos of candidates as voters would be asked to circle the names of their favorite candidates instead of using random ballots which are usually distributed by partisans of different parties.
However, a number of MPs were reportedly against such reforms, claiming that illiterate people were not capable of using pre-printed ballots.
Parliament first met on Saturday to discuss the electoral reforms that were recommended by Parliament's Administration and Justice Committee.
Among the adopted reforms was the decision to hold elections on a single day.
Previous polls have been held over several days for what were described as security reasons.
Much of Saturday's debate involved discussions on whether members of the armed forces should be allowed to vote.
The prohibition on military personnel taking part in elections is supposed to help the army maintain its nonpartisan status in Lebanese society.
Also on Saturday, Parliament adopted the 10th article of the electoral law, which related to the timeframe required between the resignation of mayors and their running for parliamentary elections. Parliament decided to make this a six-month period for mayors and a two-year period for the heads of municipality unions.
In a separate development, Progressive Socialist Leader Walid Jumblatt visited Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea at his residence in Mirab late on Sunday. Jumblatt and Geagea discussed the recent developments as well as the status of the March 14 alliance ahead of next year's elections.
MPs Wael Abou Faour, George Adwan, Strida Geagea and Elie Keyrouz were present at the meeting.
On Monday, a Future Movement delegation, including Nader Hariri (a cousin of Future Movement leader Saad Hariri) and former MP Ghattas Khoury, also visited Geagea in Mirab.
Khoury told reporters after the meeting that alliances within the March 14 Forces would remain the same.
The Daily Star