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Parliamentary extension seems to be on the cards

File - The parliamentary joint committee convenes at the Parliament in Beirut, Friday, March 28, 2014. (The Daily Star/Lebanese Parliament Website, HO)

It is said that “necessity knows no law,” and indeed this seems to be the case as Parliament prepares to extend its mandate, despite the reservations of many, including Speaker Nabih Berri, who said “there is no point in extending the mandate of a Parliament that does not fulfill its role completely.”

For now, it seems security conditions do not allow for parliamentary elections, according to reports submitted by three security agencies to Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk.

Observers said it was still possible that the extension could pave the way for a broader political settlement leading to the election of a new president. Reaching the compromise would undoubtedly require some political compromises, to entice those currently blocking the presidential election to move aside. This could take the form of administrative or political appointments, or the passing of a new electoral law similar to the Orthodox Gathering law.

Sources familiar with the issue say that one of the conditions insisted on by the March 14 coalition for such a settlement would be the dissolution of Parliament immediately following the presidential election and the passing of this new electoral law. The coalition proposed extending Parliament’s mandate for one year only, fearing that a longer extension could lead parties to drag their feet on the presidential election.

The sources said that Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s trip to Saudi Arabia recently was not unrelated to this settlement, adding that the list of consensus presidential candidates had been narrowed to a few key figures who were now being considered.

However, sources in the March 8 alliance said it did not appear Hariri would return to Lebanon again soon following his brief visit to complete the task assigned him by Saudi King Abdullah, which was to oversee the spending of the kingdom’s grant of $1 billion to the Army and security services.

Hariri reportedly discovered in the course of his meetings in Lebanon with various political figures the obstinacy of Hezbollah and the party’s ally, Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun, on the presidential election, despite the concessions and inducements offered to them in exchange for withdrawing the FPM leader’s candidacy and agreeing on a consensus candidate.

The sources confirmed that they were not holding their breath for any internal mobilization to break this political deadlock, despite the insistence of MP Walid Jumblatt on the concept of a Lebanon-based solution. The sources said that everybody now was watching the outcome of U.S.-Iranian negotiations, which, if positive, could revive Iranian-Saudi communication.

The sources added that the breakthrough achieved in Iraq, manifested in the nomination of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, could have positive effects on other conflicts in the region within a month, depending on the makeup of the new Cabinet and whether Sunnis would be allotted security portfolios.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 19, 2014, on page 3.

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Summary

For now, it seems security conditions do not allow for parliamentary elections, according to reports submitted by three security agencies to Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk.

Sources familiar with the issue say that one of the conditions insisted on by the March 14 coalition for such a settlement would be the dissolution of Parliament immediately following the presidential election and the passing of this new electoral law. The coalition proposed extending Parliament's mandate for one year only, fearing that a longer extension could lead parties to drag their feet on the presidential election.

The sources said that Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri's trip to Saudi Arabia recently was not unrelated to this settlement, adding that the list of consensus presidential candidates had been narrowed to a few key figures who were now being considered.


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