BEIRUT: A total of 706 candidates submitted their applications for Lebanon’s upcoming parliamentary elections by the midnight deadline set by the Interior Ministry.
Despite an overwhelming reluctance to hold polls next month under the existing 1960 Law, all major political parties submitted their lists of candidates by the Monday evening deadline. The Kataeb Party, which initially rejected holding polls under the existing law, filed a list of 19 candidates with the Interior Ministry at 10:30 p.m.
“The Interior Ministry is now prepared to hold elections on June 16 based on the 1960 Law,” caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel said at a news conference minutes after the ministry stopped receiving applications.
“For us, there is an active law and the ministry does not have a choice but to prepare elections under this law,” Charbel said, adding that a failure by the ministry to hold polls on time would leave the country exposed to a dangerous political vacuum.
“At 7 a.m., Sunday, June 16, the Interior Ministry will open its doors for elections,” Charbel added.
Charbel said that 302 people applied to run for the polls on the last day to submit candidacies. “The total number now stands at 706, while the total number of people who submitted their candidacies by the 2009 deadline was 715,” Charbel said.
Although the period of time for receiving candidate applications was shorter this year due to political developments in the country, a large number of candidates submitted their applications in the last two days before the deadline.
Charbel’s news conference came hours after the Cabinet approved holding next month’s elections under the 1960 Law, after establishing a new supervisory committee for elections.
“In the past few weeks, the staff at the Interior Ministry has been working day and night and thanks to their hard work, we have finished this first part of our work,” he said.
Charbel said the unrest in Tripoli should not be a reason for postponing elections, arguing that specific polling stations could be arranged in the city to allow people to vote. “I think the security situation in Tripoli will get better by June 16 and if voters are afraid to go to certain polling stations, we can arrange new polling stations at the Rashid Karami Leisure Complex in the city,” he said.
At least 30 people have died so far in clashes between pro- and anti-Syrian regime groups in Tripoli, and a number of politicians have said elections cannot be held under the present circumstances.
Charbel added that as long as the Parliament is unable to vote down the 1960 Law, the Interior Ministry would go ahead with plans to hold elections on time.
“Only the Parliament can postpone this election and only when they cancel [the 1960 Law] and reach an agreement on an extension of the Parliament’s term. When that happens, the Interior Ministry will deal with it and set a new date for parliamentary elections,” Charbel said.
He added that 1,900 out of the 10,000 expatriate voters registered at embassies abroad would be eligible to vote on June 7 and June 9.