Written by Tamam Hamdan
Translated by Assaad Maalouf
Parliamentary elections started with Mutasarrifate in Ottoman period when the first law was approved by an international committee and the high Ottoman authority in June 1881, notably when an administrative council had been formed for Mutasarrifate through elections, for the purpose of assisting Mutasarrif.
The administrative council was formed out of 14 members, two members for each sect in Mount Lebanon. Later on, amendments were done to the law in 1864 when reconsideration to the sectarian distribution was given, and it remained in such form until 1916. Despite the limited effect left by such law upon Lebanon’s future, it was able to establish a panel that expressed to certain extent citizens’ will.
With the set up of the first Lebanese republic in 1926 – with the birth of Lebanese Constitution - some historians linked the establishment of the first parliamentary council to 1922 by resolution number 1304 from the high commissioner that stipulated the formation of a representative council for Great Lebanon that called upon electoral bodies to elect a council composed of 30 members, known as the first representative council.
In 1925, a new mandate started for the second representative council that put the Lebanese Constitution on May 23, 1926, and that announced the set up of the Lebanese republic. It stipulated that the legislative authority, that is the parliamentary council or senate, would assume its missions in Lebanon. As to the Constitution, it didn’t recognize the number of the members of the parliamentary council; it didn’t even stipulated the means and conditions of electing, as it left the matter up to the election laws hitherto in use.
Dr. Edmund Rabat said that until 1922 the electoral law had been decided by the government and the policy adopted by the government, indicating that the amendments carried out consecutively to electoral laws remained as week in form as it did not plunge into its depth.
He said that the first law was issued March 10, 1922, and was amended in 1927 in a way that allowed the president to issue a decree appointing deputies whose number would be equivalent to the number of elected deputies who formed the second representative council which was composed of 30 members in addition to other members of the senate so as to reach an overall number of 46 member. In 1934 and 1937 amendments were also done slightly to entail electoral circumscriptions and means of forming them.
In 1943, a new amendment was formed stipulating that the parliamentary council was just formed of elected deputies. On November 4, 1952, another new amendment was done to entail the election mechanism and its conditions.
On April 26, 1960, a new electoral law was formed without undergoing any amendment till issuing Constitutional reforms to the National Pact on September 21, 1990.
Amidst the political debate that has not yet reached any result, regarding finding a new electoral law, and amidst the fear of each side about its political volume, different ideas, suggestions and formulations have emerged; each side approaches an electoral law draft from its own view until the law drafts and projects have exceeded 17 in number.
For this reason, House Speaker Nabih Berri formed throughout months more than one subcommittee represented by all Lebanese sides, last of which was the parliamentary intercommunication committee that reached a formulation combining between the majority and the mixture law. The committee passed its report, regarding the formulation, to the presidency of parliamentary council so that Speaker Berri would present it to the national dialogue committee in order for Lebanese leaders to assume their responsibilities before presenting the formulation on the Parliament in the first legislative session held by the Parliament and that would be concluded by the end of May.
Written by Tamam Hamdan