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Page last updated at 11:46 GMT, Tuesday, 30 September 2008 12:46 UK

Lebanon approves new election law

Parliament speaker Nabih al-Berri, President Michel Suleiman and Prime Minister Fouad Siniora in national dialogue talks
The law is another stage of reconciliations between intense political rivals

The Lebanese parliament has approved a new election law as part of a reconciliation process begun in May.

The new law, which alters the boundaries of voting districts, will be used as the basis for parliamentary elections next year.

It is an amended version of a 1960 law under which voting is held in smaller districts known as cazas.

The new law also calls for Lebanese elections to be held on one day, rather than over several days.

MAIN CHANGES
Adversarial races in smaller constituences
Single election day, rather than on successive weekends
Media coverage regulated
Expatriates given vote in 2013

Several proposed reforms were rejected, including a lowering of the voting age to 18 from 21, quotas for women in parliament, and allowing Lebanese citizens living abroad to vote.

However, reports say the new law gives expatriates the right to vote in elections in 2013.

The vote was held on the eve of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, so there is little media coverage of parliament's decision.

It comes a day after another deadly bombing in the northern city of Tripoli, the second in a month, which Lebanese leaders have condemned as an attempt to halt the reconciliation process.

Key demands

Adoption of the election law is the third and final element of the Qatari-mediated deal between rival pro- and anti-Syrian factions in Lebanon after prolonged wrangling brought the country to the brink of civil war.

The first was the formation of a unity cabinet in which the former opposition led-by Hezbollah had a power of veto, and the second was the beginning of a national dialogue on issues such as Hezbollah's weaponry.

The powerful pro-Syrian group had been seeking smaller-sized voting constituencies as it felt it was underrepresented under the previous system.

An aide to parliament speaker Nabih al-Berri said the bill was approved by parliament late on Monday.

The legislation also included new clauses regulating the role of the media publicity in elections - which had been banned under the previous law - and setting a limit on some costs incurred by candidates.

Candidates must be given equal time to promote their electoral programmes, while a media "silence" will be observed between midnight on the day before polling stations open until the last votes are cast.

Opinion polls will be banned in the 10 days leading up to elections.

A first session of a national dialogue between the rival leaders was held earlier this month, with another scheduled for 5 November.





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