Enhancing Women Political Participation through Electoral Laws National Conference
In cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) – the Lebanese Elections Assistance Project and the Technical Support to the Lebanese Parliament Project -, the General Secretariat of the Parliament organized a national conference entitled “Temporary Special Measures to Promote the Political Representation of Women through Electoral Laws” under the patronage of His Excellency the Speaker of Parliament, Mr. Nabih Berri, and with the support and presence of Her Excellency the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General in Lebanon, Ms. Sigrid Kaag.
The conference took place on Tuesday 1st December in Beirut in partnership with the National Commission of the Lebanese Women (NCLW) and the Women in Parliament Coalition. It aimed at discussing the possible ways to include “Temporary Special Measures” in favor of women in any electoral law that would be agreed upon, and to hear / discuss the position of the political parties on the women’s quota.
Speaker Berri, represented by MP Yassine Jaber and Ms. Kaag, participated in the opening session along with the minister of Interior and Municipalities, Mr. Nouhad Machnouk and the representative of NCLW, Dr. Fadia Kiwan. In addition MP Shant Janjanian, MP Marwan Fares, MP Bahiya El Hariri and former Minister Mrs. Wafaa Dika Hamzeh attended the conference along with diplomatic corps, international organizations, civil society organizations and experts.
Members of Parliament contributed in the conference by giving their positions and the positions of their political party on the Women’s Quota as follows: Mr. Ahmad Fatat from the Future bloc, Mr. Michel Moussa from the Development and Liberation bloc, Mr. Antoine Zahra from the Lebanese Forces bloc, Mr. Marwan Hamedeh from Democratic Gathering bloc, and Mr. Estefan Douaihy from the Minister Frangiyeh bloc.
The opening speech was delivered by the UNDP Technical Support to the Lebanese Parliament Project Manager Mrs. Fatmeh Fakherddine who said that, after the adoption of regaining the nationality law which is related to the electoral law, the hopes to draft the electoral law became higher. She also hoped that the MPs will agree on adopting the Quota and the proper measurements to implement it in the upcoming elections law by the end of the conference.
On behalf of NCLW, Dr. Kiwan asked why the rights of the Lebanese women’s are not endorsed, especially in regards to her political representation after 20 years on the Beijing declaration which demanded that the countries would take the proper measurements to increase women’s political participation and to adopt Women Quota at least 30%. And she reminded the officials/MPs, who were giving excuses such as the unconstitutionality of the women Quota, that Lebanon is already based on the Quota systems.
Minister Machnouk started his speech by praising the women who entered the political life and succeeded in it, and said “the absence of women in politics is not related to culture since their presence is remarkable in other sectors such as banking and media”. And he stressed on the importance of including 15% women Quota in the upcoming electoral law as a starting point.
Highlighting the 3% women representation in the Lebanese Parliament, Ms. Kaag said “this is not acceptable, especially when this percentage rises up to 16 in Libya. She pointed out that women Quota is an essential matter and not a luxury. She also stressed on the necessity to change the male culture and asked the Lebanese political parties to implement the Quota concept within their blocs.
“A practical way to achieve the goal of increasing women’s political representation in Lebanon would be by submitting a proposal to implement the women quota law”, said Speaker Berri in his speech delivered by MP Yassin Jaber. He continued saying that “the current discussions regarding the constitutionality and unconstitutionality of the quota is unaccepted, and if need be, let’s amend the constitution and add a paragraph to article 24 which specifies seats for women similar to other existing quotas”. He added: “And even if the Quota is a non-democratic procedure, however it is one from which will result the enhancement of democracy and will put an end to marginalizing women in politics”.
After the opening speeches, the first session started with an explanatory presentation on the “National Initiative for a Quota” delivered by the electoral expert, Dr. Chantal Sarkis. She was followed by the UNDP Lebanese Elections Assistance Project (LEAP) national advisor, Mr. Said Sanadiki, who tackled the subject of “Women’s Quota in the Lebanese Parliamentary Elections” which includes the legal and constitutional arguments to adopt the Temporary Special Measures to enhance women’s political representation.
The interventions of the members of the electoral law commission were declared in the second session which was headed by MP Atef Majdalani. The first intervention was for MP Hamedeh who said that the Women Quota is not relevant to the two clauses discussed by the commission of the electoral law which are: electoral system and division of districts.
As for MP Fatfat, he said that the Future movement accepts to adopt the women’s Quota on the level of candidacy but not on the seats’ allocation.
“It is not unconstitutional not to implement the Quota” pointed out MP Zahra who announced that the Lebanese Forces is committed to the women’s rights and to adopt Quota, however he asked not to exaggerate in claiming a preferential vote so that this proposal would not become a negative one.
MP Douaihy assured that there is no discrimination against women in the laws except for the nationality law and in some of the laws’ clauses which can be changed.
And MP Moussa reiterated MP Hamedeh statement assuring that the commission is not asked to discuss anything but two clauses, and he added that the Development and Liberation bloc is committed to implementing Quota.
The last intervention was for MP Alain Aoun who could not make it to the conference but sent his intervention for the record. He explained that Quota cannot be implemented in a majoritarian system but easy to include in a proportional system where closed lists are adopted. Therefore in the latter case, the lists that don’t include women’s representation will not be accepted during the candidature period. He added that women Quota is considered a step forward towards achieving a complete reform to the electoral law and the short way to do that is by adopting the proportional law which is the most relevant and easy to implement.
Finally and by the end of the sessions, former minister Dika commented on Mr. Hamedeh’s intervention suggesting to establish a special commission to discuss the mechanism of adopting the Quota in the electoral law or to add the women’s Quota as a third clause on the commission’s discussions. And Mr. Hamedeh promised to raise this request to Speaker Berri.