BEIRUT

Lebanon News

Cabinet set to lock horns on creation of election body

Ministers attend a Cabinet session at the Presidential Palace in Baabda, Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: President Michel Sleiman and March 8 ministers are expected to face off during Wednesday’s Cabinet session over the creation of a campaign supervisory body, a step some ministers fear would lead to holding elections under the current 1960 law.

The supervisory committee for elections is the first of 66 items on the Cabinet’s agenda.

The Department of Consultation and Legislation (Majles Shura al-Dawla), an independent body that offers legal opinion to all the ministries and the Cabinet, has yet to issue its opinion on the deadline for the creation of the election commission.

President Sleiman has made it clear that the supervisory committee is a priority, threatening to suspend Cabinet meetings unless the department’s findings, once issued, top the agenda. March 8 has vowed to oppose the creation of the election supervisory body on the grounds it would force the country into running elections based on the 1960 law.

The creation of the supervisory commission for elections is mandated by the 1960 electoral law currently in place. Both March 8 and March 14 have rejected the idea of holding the next elections according to the current law, but have so far failed to agree on new electoral legislation.

The president and the Progressive Socialist Party are now actively campaigning for holding the elections as scheduled on June 9, 2013, even if it means going back to the 1960 law, ministerial sources said.

Health Minister Ali Hasan Khalil reportedly told the president during the previous Cabinet session that March 8 ministers would continue to fight the current electoral law, even if agreement on a new law is not reached. Last week, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said the 1960 law was “dead and buried.”

Prime Minister Najib Mikati thinks March 8’s stubborness has more or less killed the possibility of running the elections according to the current law, especially since most of the government has already rejected it, sources close to Mikati told The Daily Star over the weekend.

Interior Minister Marwan Charbel has already signed a decree calling on eligible voters to participate in the elections and referred to it to the prime minister. However, Mikati is not bound by any legal deadline, and has yet to approve the decree and pass it on to the president.

The 66 items on the agenda also include an agreement between Lebanon and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, as well as a memorandum of understanding between the Lebanese and Russian Energy ministries to cooperate on gas and oil projects. The Cabinet is also expected to discuss bids on projects to rehabilitate the power plants in Zouk Mosbeh and Jiyyeh under the supervision of the Council for Development and Reconstruction.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 11, 2013, on page 3.

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