BEIRUT: Parliament may have to temporarily extend its mandate MP Fouad Siniora says, as Cabinet fails to meet the legal deadline to publish a decree calling on the electorate to participate in parliamentary elections set for November.
“We may be forced to resort to an extension of Parliament’s mandate, but only for a limited time,” said the head of the Future bloc.
The extended period would be used to elect a president, he added.
Siniora said that the country was going through a difficult phase, and overall security conditions prompted the suspension of parliamentary elections, referencing the security threats previously mentioned by Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk.
For his part, Machnouk stressed the need for the Cabinet to publish the decree calling on the electorate to participate in parliamentary elections.
“It must be issued by Cabinet in order for it to become effective,” said the interior minister in an interview with An-Nahar daily Sunday.
“The issue will be discussed in Cabinet’s extraordinary session Tuesday,” he added.
However, Social Affairs Minister Rashid Derbas said that the decree was not on the Cabinet’s agenda for Tuesday’s session, saying instead that the topic would likely be discussed in a session set for next Thursday.
The decree calling on the electorate to vote should have been published before Monday, Aug. 18th, as per the constitutional deadline for issuing the bill.
The invitation for the electorate to participate in upcoming elections must be delivered ninety days before the date of parliamentary polls, which are set for November 16.
The failure to issue the decree constitutes a breach of the ninety-day time limit to challenge the election before the State Council.
The decree also required the signatures of all twenty-four ministers in accordance with the mechanism adopted by Cabinet, allowing it to exercise the powers of the president.
“Had there been an election of a president then there wouldn’t have been any justification from political parties to ask for an extension of Parliament’s mandate,” said Health Minister Wael Abu Faour after a meeting with former President Michel Sleiman.
Berri argued that a parliamentary extension was driven by a fear of an overall vacancy in all state institutions.
Earlier this month, Machnouk issued the decree to Cabinet calling on resident and non-resident members of the electorate to participate in upcoming elections on the basis of the enforced electoral law No. 25/2008 in accordance with constitutional deadlines.
The interior minister had also issued another degree regarding the formation of the supervisory council overseeing election campaigns.
However, last week, Machnouk said that security agencies had advised against holding the parliamentary elections scheduled in November, setting the stage for another possible extension of Parliament's mandate
Last year in March, lawmakers voted to extend their mandate for 17 months, citing security concerns following months of futile talks on a draft electoral law to replace the current one – the 1960 election law.
Since then, MPs have failed to resume discussions on a new law that many see as necessary to hold the election.
Several officials have also hinted that upcoming parliamentary polls would be delayed in light of the deteriorating security in the country due to the raging conflict in neighboring Syria.