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Mikati: Higher Islamic Council elections ‘void’

Mikati, Siniora, Salam and Karami vowed to continue consultations on the election controversy.

BEIRUT: Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati and leading Sunni politicians said Wednesday that last weekend’s Higher Islamic Council elections were “void,” as Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani remained defiant in support of the poll.

Mikati chaired a meeting at the Grand Serail, gathering Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam and former Prime Ministers Fouad Siniora and Omar Karami. Former Prime Minister Salim Hoss was absent for medical reasons.

“The attendees remained [committed] to their stance that what the mufti did, along with violating the judicial decisions of the Shura Council in a repetitive manner, goes against all norms, particularly those related to quorum and administrating elections,” a statement from Mikati’s office said.

“Anything that results from this violation is absolutely void,” it added.

Mikati also gave instructions not to publish the results of the elections in the Official Gazette.

Qabbani had approved the results of the elections for the Higher Islamic Council which were held Sunday in defiance of the Shura Council.

“The mufti of the republic issued Decision 57 of 2013, which approved of the results of the Higher Islamic Council elections,” Dar al-Fatwa said.

“The mufti will later set a date for holding council elections in the regions of Tripoli and the Bekaa, where the polls were not held due to lack of quorum.”

Qabbani declared Sunday that candidates for the council won uncontested in the regions of Beirut, Sidon, Hasbaya, Akkar and Mount Lebanon while the remaining nine seats in Tripoli and the Bekaa Valley remained vacant due to a lack of quorum of eligible voters.

Divisions within Dar al-Fatwa began to surface last year when the 32-member council, whose majority is allied with the Future Movement, extended its own term until the end of 2013. Qabbani deemed the move illegal and called for the April 14 elections.

The grand mufti maintained that the council’s elections were legitimate and denied that the Shura Council had issued a decision to cancel them.

The Higher Islamic Council, the highest administrative Sunni body, elects the mufti and organizes the affairs of Dar al-Fatwa, the country’s top Sunni religious authority.

During the meeting, Mikati told the former premiers he had already informed the mufti that calling for and holding the polls would be invalidated “because it violates the judicial decision to stop the elections as well as the judicial decisions by the Shura Council.”

The attendees said they would continue to consult each other on the issue in order “to safeguard the aims of the Sunni community, to preserve the status of Dar al-Fatwa against any violations, [and avoid] whatever harms the sect or its highest interests.”

Qabbani has said he never received the Shura Council decision to stop the elections, while arguing that the body’s decisions were nonbinding.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 18, 2013, on page 3.

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