Lebanon News

Parliamentary elections likely to be postponed

Prime Minister Najib Mikati Honors a Delegation of Lebanese Students. Thursday, October 04, 2012. (The Daily Star/Dalati Nohra/HO)

During Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s recent visit to New York City, Western officials expressed support for both his policy of dissociation from events in Syria and for maintaining Lebanon’s political status quo.

This seems likely, given that the only topic the opposition and the majority in Cabinet agree on is that the 2013 parliamentary elections should be postponed in order to distance the country from regional unrest.

Such a postponement was discussed in the backrooms of parliamentary committee meetings earlier this week, after most aspects of a potential new electoral law were set aside by opposition arguments that non-state arms are hindering and will continue to hinder genuine democratic practice. It seems as if lawmakers are seeking a justification for pushing back the polls.

According to several diplomatic sources, the international community also supports delaying elections. These sources say Arab and Western leaders are in ongoing talks on how to reach some sort of compromise in Lebanon before the elections.

Despite the support for postponing voting, another option world leaders are discussing is amending the 1960 law and using it in next year’s polls. Under this amended law Lebanese expatriates would be allowed to vote, an independent commission would monitor the election process, and the voting age would be lowered to 18.

Although various groups have proposed implanting proportional representation and changing the size and number of electoral districts, the changes being talked about would not include these reforms.

If elections were to be held using this plan, the likely outcome would be a Parliament with a composition almost identical to that of the current legislative body. The March 14 and March 8 blocs would remain, with an independent bloc headed by Progressive Socialist leader Walid Jumblatt.

With elections delayed, a decision would have to be made about whether President Michel Sleiman’s term should be extended. Also to be considered are the mandates of Army chief General Jean Kahwaji and Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh. Although Sleiman has dismissed the idea of extending his term, many believe that a presidential contest would threaten the country’s stability.

As Lebanon and the world watch the developments in Syria unfold, diplomatic sources say the situation in Syria will further deteriorate if powerful countries continue to reject a peaceful compromise that would result in a “Syrian Taif.”

Even if some sort of stability is reached in this way, it is unlikely to come within a year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 05, 2012, on page 3.




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