MP Marwan Hamade Discusses Electoral Reforms in Lebanon

October 17, 2016 5:00 PM
Nicol 222, Beirut campus

The Institute for Social Justice and Conflict Resolution and the Department of Social Sciences hosted a discussion with MP Marwan Hamade under the theme: “Electoral Reforms in Lebanon”.

H.E. Marwan Hamade is an elected Member of the Lebanese Parliament for Shouf District (2009). He served as Minister of Telecommunications, Minister of Economy and Trade, Minister of Tourism, Minister of Health, and Minister of the Displaced during different Lebanese cabinets. He started his career as an Economic and Political Columnist at an-Nahar and L’Orient-de-Jour daily newspapers before serving as an-Nahar Group President and Director. He also served as Member of the Higher Council of the Lebanese Press, Consultant for the World Organization of Health for the Middle East, and Member of the International Committee of Bioethics at UNESCO. MP Hemade is a member of the Strategic Council of St. Joseph University, Beirut. He holds a Law degree and a PhD in economics from Saint Joseph University.

This event was part of Associate Professor Imad Salamey’s graduate seminar titled “Lebanese Electoral Politics”.

Press Release

Marwan Hamadeh voices optimism for reforming electoral law

Beirut, Lebanon – On Monday, October 17th, Member of Parliament Mr. Marwan Hamade voiced optimism for electoral reform during a talk delivered at the Lebanese American University’s  Institute of Social Justice and Conflict Resolution.  


Hamade, who served in various ministries suggested that we should not give up to pessimism when it comes for a new electoral law. Given the complexity of Lebanese political demography, and given the parity of representation despite mismatching Muslim-to-Christian electorates, the new law must be carefully crafted.  The menu of electoral propositions have now reached more than 17 different proposals.

Despite the fact that they are mostly divergent, where some recommend proportionality in large districts and others majority in smaller districts, mixed electoral system seems to have gained most support.   

The remaining question is how many MPs should be enlisted on either proportional or majoritarian levels. Still, the real elephant in the room lies in determining the size and border of electoral districts that can produce equitable representation and avoid gerrymandering.

group photo with MP Hamade

Hamade considered that significant progress has been made during parliamentary deliberation that aimed to address the concerns of most political parties and sectarian communities. Among the innovative electoral proposition being discussed is the introduction of primaries as a mean to determine qualified and popularly preferred candidates. With respect to the question of presidency MP Hamadeh voiced his preference to see a younger president elected to help jump start the political process and provide encouragement and enthusiasm to the population at large.

Press Coverage

Response to Speaker

* On October 17, 2016, the Lebanese Electoral Politics course hosted his Excellency MP Marwan Hamade. Hamade started with a brief overview about the Lebanese history and examined the delicate and complex divisions within the Lebanese society posing the dilemma about the best electoral system that can balance between fair representation, stability and good governance. The MP briefed the attendees about the major electoral draft laws debated like the Orthodox law, Charbel law and most importantly the two electoral propositions: one suggested by the Future Front, the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) and the Lebanese Forces (68 seats based on majoritarian representation and 60 seats based on proportional representation) and the second by Amal party comprising of 64 seats by proportional representation and 64 by majoritarian. Hamade noted a very important distinction between a project and a proposition emphasizing that the first is the one issued from the government to the house whereas the latter is drafted by one or more MPs to the assembly. Furthermore, Hamade pointed 3 issues for the failure of reforms: these are: 1) the feudal system, 2) the confessional system and 3) the weapons and the arms. Few of the most important questions asked were those related to the retreat of the feudal families, the out-of-country voting and the presidential and parliamentary elections. Hamade expressed his optimism with the capability of the new generation to induce a change that can “limit” the sectarian structure of the country and prepare for deconfessionalism. It would have been interesting to further discuss the issue of how the next president can actually impact the choice of the electoral system.


 *  Indeed it was a very good presentation. The speaker seemed very at ease and easy to talk with. This made it very comfortable to share our questions, thoughts, & ideas. The speaker makes me aware about the fact that electoral systems design is highly sensitive to context. In addition, I have acquired a lesson regarding how political agreement is very important, not all the time politicians have to conflict each other. Yes there is conflict of interest but political agreement on the rules and legislations such as electoral system must be exist. For me, discussing the different types of electoral systems; single-member constituency systems, multi-member constituency systems, and mixed systems with both single and multi-member constituencies, where particularly interesting. I think all the questions were very helpful, however, I especially appreciated the question made by one of our colleagues was about the solution of the problem of political disagreement and other question was about geographical distribution of different ethnic and religious groups were helpful. Although I did ask two questions, I still have unanswered one. It is all about “what are the criteria based on it we can say which constituency systems proportional, majoritarian, or mixed is much more convenient to different culturally plural societies?” The class was absolutely wonderful for me. 

* I really enjoyed the presentation by HE Marwan Hamade on the reform of the Lebanese Electoral System. The speaker made me aware on how and why Lebanon has reached a deadlock in the parliamentary and presidential elections. As well, he informed me on why most reforms have failed; due to Feudal systems, Confessional system and Weaponry & Money. I particularly enjoyed his reading out of the Lebanese constitution on when the president should have been elected, at least 10 days before the end of the mandate of the previous president! It’s surprising to me how a country can drift from its’ own constitution! I thought Nora’s question was helpful, regarding how will voters from abroad change the dialogue. MP Hamade explained that it would diminish to a certain degree the imbalance between Christians & Muslims, yet it would be best to allocate a number of seats for voters abroad. I asked a questions regarding how the presidential vacancy has impacted Lebanon’s stability, considering all international and national players, as well as if a president is elected, what’s next? In light of his discussion, I definitely like to hear from a woman MP if possible:)

* The presentation was interesting, it made me aware that not only sectarianism is the problem in Lebanon but also feudalism, both being the reasons why all reforms are failing, and it made me recognize the difference between a proposition and a project of law. Moreover, I learned that there are 17 project laws and propositions crammed together and forgotten by the government. The most interesting part was when he mentioned the latest municipal elections and the support which civil society got in it, thus even within this sectarian system, the citizens tried to change. A helpful question asked by another student was whether a president elected by a prolonged parliament would be considered legitimate; the answer was that we have to start somewhere to solve the deadlock and already five of our presidents were elected by prolonged parliaments. I would have asked a question about whether the speaker considers the Lebanese electoral system to be actually democratic or not, because it might be considered by some as the only democratic system in the Arab world, however other factors interfere which render Lebanon further from the typical western secular democracies. More discussion could be made in the future about the possibility of not only changing the system of electing a parliament but also change the system to a presidential system and seeing how this would affect Lebanon.

* MP Hamade’s presentation was extremely interesting and informative especially that most of the events and instances he addressed he was an active participant and witness given his extensive and lengthy experience in Lebanese politics; He also presented some details included in the Taif agreement (regarding the activation of the senate and the election implications) that I was unaware of which made me view this agreement in a slightly more tolerant way as I am personally opposed to it.  Most interesting part of the discussion was the electoral law projects that he referred to which are currently presented to the parliament the mixed systems proposes by the different party coalition and the other one presented by the speaker of the house suggesting also a mixed system between proportional system and majoritarian by having primary election with a threshold of 25%. The question about women quota, as that would have been my second question. I wanted to know if the current proposals being studied included a woman quota. I would have liked for MP to give us a draft of the 2 proposals that he mentioned as well as ask him what would be in his opinion a better suitable law for Lebanon and if he would elaborate on drawing district lines. I would like us to discuss the division of districts and how gerrymandering changes election outcome in Lebanon because this is seemingly the only matter i find challenging.

* The presentation was very informative and I can consider it as a huge added value just like the previous lectures. The discussion gave me an idea how to think broadly about the Electoral Reforms in Lebanon. The demographic issue that politically accommodate the shifts of both Muslims and Christians across Lebanon (Christians were majority and Muslims were minority).-Proportionality can be seen within the community. The idea is if we have a mixed system, proportionality will be imposed in it.- He summarized in three points why most reforms have failed in Lebanon, starting from the law that was diminished under civil society along with the legitimacy of individual groups. Confessional system, adoption of Taif Agreement to guarantee local civil rights, and all events that happened before 1992 such as: Amal Movement and PSP Lebanese Forces.- President dilemma. The adoption of Orthodox law and the elimination of sectarian division. - Parliamentary election and proportional system.- Legitimacy of current assembly. Why it’s difficult to implement a gender quota in addition to a confessional quota in majority system?

*  The presentation of the history of Lebanon was enriching to explore the perspective from a prominent government official who worked in various sectors. The impression I had was reaffirming the rigidity and impossibility to change things easily in Lebanon, even when serving in an executive position. Every step has to be weighed against its costs, even if trivial. Overall, the presenter was going back and forth in history which gave an insight about the formation of the current status quo. In terms of content, the presenter was jumping back and forth without a clear timeline in historical events, which made it sometimes a bit confusing. In addition, I did not have the impression that the presenter answered the questions precisely, but drifted from the topics. Particularly interesting is listening to someone having a hands-on experience, and not only as an observer. The presenter had an advantage of working from both outside and inside the political arena, as a journalist then as a politician respectively. In addition, a remarkable note made by the author highlighted the bottom-line of the dilemma in Lebanon: demographic transition is the root of political demand for a representative electoral system. The question of minority representation and constitutional protection was informative to investigate the effectiveness of the laws that protect minorities rights and representations.  I wanted to ask the root causes of women underrepresentation but unfortunately there was no time. I recommend that the presenter be more precise when answering questions as there was a drift from the topic in question at many times, in addition that the presenter would have an organized narration of historical events in order to follow and make up an informed picture.

*  valuable insights into his previous tasks in the Lebanese parliament. I especially appreciated his historic overview and the changes in the Lebanese parliament which made it later easier to understand the obstacles in new electoral systems and to fully understand the importance of a well-designed electoral system for the upcoming elections. Furthermore, his explanation about Lebanon’s role in the global context of an emerging inter-confessional conflict were very interesting. The student’s question about the role of sectarianism in government jobs and the question about the legitimacy of the president were especially interesting for me, as HE Hamade’s responses were very insightful. I would have like to asked – again- if there are any young politicians that HE Hamade regards as capable of introducing change in the country.  Personally, I would be interested to further explore the role of foreign powers in Lebanese politics and especially electoral engineering.

* The speaker makes me aware about several issues such as half and half law implementation and the history of Sectarianism. In addition, I have acquired a lesson regarding how confessional thinking could lead to internal-civil wars. In case of Lebanon, there are three levels cause confessional bias; family role, different religions and confessions, and weapons existence. For me, discussing the blocked confessional system in Lebanon, the role of family in rushing the civil society, and the need of transition to make a progress for opening the windows for new Lebanon where particularly interesting. I think all the questions were very helpful, however, I especially appreciated the question made by one of our colleagues was about why most reforms were fail? Also is money existed in the elections and why weapons are considered an obstacle? I did ask a question about under which role the next president supposed to work with.

* MP Hamade gave a very insightful lecture on the possible Lebanese electoral reforms.As he stated , the electoral law mirrors the society’s structure. Being a member of a committee that was formed by the national dialogue and the parliament, he expreesed the various challenges faced to draft a consensus law on a new electoral system. Indeed, Lebanon is a complex mosaic-like country. It needs a tailored electoral system that would satisfy all parties. It was surprising to know that seventeen projects were submitted to challenge the existing electoral law. Today’s electoral law (1960 Law) does not accomodate the present demography. The main dispute lies in the difficulty to reflect the actual demography and meet the demands of the Christians. To elaborate more, during the sixties ratio of Christians to Muslims was 50/50, however, due to vast immigration of Christians and wide distribution of Muslims this ratio altered favoring the Muslim population. This imbalance created a gap in the parity balance in the constitution which states that Christian representation should be equivaent to the Muslim. A question arises, how could the districts be curved to hide this demographic assymetry? How could the electoral system conciliate the two groups which are disproportionately distributed yet equally represented in the constitution? As mentioned various laws were proposed. The most welcoming one is the MMP that combines the best of the two systems(Majoritarean and PR). It would live up to the Christian’s expectations  and consequently satisfy the Muslims. MP Hamade understands the complexity in modifying the system. As he said,” Yes, reforms have failed.” Lebanon is still exercising the Feudalistic system in which families play major roles. Moreover, the confessional system is a total blockage for advancement. Lebanon should work on a transitional period to secularize its parliament as the Taef agreement stated. In conclusion, MP Hamade has hope in the future of this country. He has hope in the youth. ” Change will come through this generation.”

* The presentation by Mr. Marwan Hamadeh was really interesting, it gave me new information about Lebanon and the demographic transition that happened over the years. As well as the electoral proposals that we read and studied, I now know the difference between a project and a proposal, and based on what both are presented. He also talked about some factors that affect the elections in Lebanon such as the families in specific areas that plays a role during elections and so. The question that was raised about minority protection and his reply to this question was interesting. Speaking from his background and experiences in various fields serving as minister and being a parliamentarian as well, he talked about what is at stake for the Lebanese society, and what should we put in the back of our mind while thinking about the law we will write about.

* The presentation was very well informative and interesting especially that Mr. Marwan Hamadé is very experienced politician who served in various capacities in different cabinets in addition to being a parliament member.  Mr.Hamadé has given us insights from his experience about the different electoral projects and propositions proposed to the parliament and characteristics of the Lebanese political and demographic structure that need to be taken into consideration when thinking about new electoral law for Lebanon. For me as an exchange student the presentation was really helpful to better understand how the political system works starting from 1930, Taif agreement and the situation now where Muslims are asking for fair representation according to the demographic change and the dilemma of designing an electoral formula that secure representation form the Christians and at the same time satisfactory to Muslims. I think that the question about the participation of Lebanese with dual nationality was help as well as the question regarding the over protection of minorities and unfair representation of women.