BEIRUT: Interior Minister Nuhad Machnouk said Sunday that Speaker Nabih Berri was about to launch talks over this fall's scheduled parliamentary elections and his ministry was preparing for the polls.
Speaking to An-Nahar newspaper, Machnouk noted that weekly meetings were being held at the Interior Ministry to prepare for the elections, adding that the “political decision” to hold the election was in the hands of Parliament.
Machnouk said that consultations between Speaker Nabih Berri and him were ongoing, adding that the latter would kick off a round of deliberations with various political blocs to discuss the fate of the legislative elections.
In light of the crisis in Syria and the frail security situation, Lebanon’s Parliament extended its mandate by a period of 17 months in May of last year, when elections were set for June 2013.
While parliamentary polls are set to start in November, a two-month presidential void and stalemate in the presidential election has stirred doubts over whether parliamentary elections will be held on time. The choice of the electoral law that would govern the polls also remains a subject of contention.
Machnouk reiterated to An-Nahar that the security situation in Lebanon was controllable, adding that security forces were exerting exceptional efforts to maintain stability.
Machnouk said pre-emptive security measures, in addition to the success of security forces to thwart three major suicide bombings, meant that there was “no need to panic.”
Machnouk revealed that an “exterior intelligence body” stood behind the so-called Free Sunni Brigades in Baalbek, a shadowy group that has been threatening to launch attacks against several targets in Lebanon in messages it broadcast on its Twitter feed.
Last week, the group said it had designated a special group of jihadists to "cleanse the Muslim Bekaa Emirate in particular, and Lebanon in general, from churches." It also urged Sunnis to keep their distances from churches, vowing to destroy all Christian symbols in the region.
But Lebanese authorities had dismissed the threats as bogus.
Machnouk highlighted that Lebanese security forces enjoyed wide support from across the political spectrum to safeguard Lebanon “from all the looming dangers in that delicate period we’re going through.”