BEIRUT: Prime Minister Najib Mikati and President Michel Sleiman signed a decree Monday calling for elections to be held on June 9, government sources told The Daily Star Monday.
The sources added that the step was a routine constitutional move and would still allow political leaders to agree on a new electoral proposal instead of the amended 1960 law used in the 2009 polls.
According to Sleiman's office, the president "signed decree number 9968 inviting electoral bodies in all parliamentary constituencies identified under law number 25 dated Oct. 8 2008 to elect members of Parliament on Sunday June 9, 2013.”
Sleiman said signing the decree does not mean that elections should be held based on the 1960 law but demonstrates the commitment to duties and responsibilities stipulated by the Constitution.
"He reiterated his previous calls to approve a new electoral law based on the law approved by Cabinet and referred to Parliament,” his office said.
The decree comes against the backdrop of the possibility that the parliamentary elections could be delayed given the inability of rival parties to reach a consensus on a new law.
Mikati last week announced he would sign the decree before the March 10 deadline in line with his constitutional duties, adding that politicians would still have time to adopt a new law before the formation of a committee to supervise the elections in the coming weeks.
Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai has come out in support of extending the terms of Parliament and the president to allow rival factions to agree on a new voting system to replace the current amended 1960 one.
The 1960 law, which has been rejected by officials on both sides of the political divide, including the Maronite Church, adopts the qada as an electoral district and is based on a winner-takes-all system.
In remarks to The Daily Star Sunday, Speaker Nabih Berri ruled out holding the June elections on time unless an agreement is reached, denying he was considering calling for a Parliament session to vote on an electoral law.
Speaking to reporters before departing to Rome Monday, Rai said it was shameful that Parliament has not yet adopted a new law.
"It is shameful for Parliament who is responsible for legislation in the country not to reach a new law instead of the 1960 one that is tailored for Lebanon and not for anyone else or else, allow me to say, they are not worthy of being MPs," Rai said.
Meanwhile, U.S. Ambassador Maura Connelly said Monday parliamentary polls should be held on time regardless of whether politicians reach a consensus on a new electoral law.
“If a new system cannot be agreed upon in the very near term, in our view, failure to achieve consensus on a new law does not mean Parliamentary elections cannot be held on time,” Connelly told reporters after talks with Berri.
“We encourage Lebanon to hold its elections on time,” she added.
Connelly also said that Lebanon, as one of the oldest democracies in the region, should adhere to “its constitutionally-mandated election schedule as one of the requirements for free and fair elections.
According to Berri’s office, the speaker in turn reiterated his remarks that the amended 1960 law has been buried and that the Lebanese are now faced with either the Orthodox Gathering law or a new law that guarantees sound representation and respects the Constitution.
The controversial proposal by the Orthodox Gathering was adopted by most Christian parties backed by Hezbollah and Amal Movement but met with staunch opposition from Future Movement and MP Walid Jumblatt.