BEIRUT: Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk issued four decrees Sunday formally inviting electoral bodies to participate in upcoming municipal elections in north and south Lebanon, in a move that effectively dispelled rumors that the polls could be delayed over security reasons.
Municipal elections are held every six years to select mayors and mukhtars, or local government officials, for over 800 municipalities across the country.
Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri denied reports that he had asked Speaker Nabih Berri to postpone the municipal elections for three months.
“This report is baseless and has nothing to do with the truth. [Former] Hariri’s firm position, which has been repeatedly declared, stresses the need to hold these elections on time,” said a statement released by Hariri’s media office.
Machnouk set the election dates in the governorates of south Lebanon and Nabatieh for Sunday, May 22, and Sunday, May 29 for the polls in north Lebanon and the Akkar province, the National News Agency reported.
Sunday’s decrees come a week after Machnouk scheduled municipal elections for Beirut, the Bekaa and the Baalbek-Hermel governorates for Sunday, May 8, and Mount Lebanon for Sunday, May 15.
He had initially scheduled the Mount Lebanon elections date for May 1, but Friday announced that they would be moved to May 15 as to avoid a clash with Easter celebrations for Christians who follow the Julian calendar, as well as Labor Day.
Meanwhile, Moussa Michel Fatoush, a brother of Zahle MP Nicolas Fatoush, announced Sunday his candidacy for the presidency of the eastern city’s municipality.
“We will not stand hand-folded in the face of those who are seizing the rights of our city,” Fatoush said during a meeting at the Fatoush family’s residence in Zahle. He did not elaborate. He said he was ready for consensus with rival candidates “provided that this consensus serves Zahle’s goals and is based on the principle of partnership.”
“But if they wanted a war [over the elections], let it be and we are ready for it,” Fatoush said.
Hezbollah MP Ali Fayyad called for holding the municipal elections on time, saying there is no reason for delaying them.
“Despite the climate of skepticism raised by some, there is no justification for postponing the elections,” Fayyad told a memorial ceremony in the southern town of Shaqra. “There is a dire need to revive municipal councils with the aim of reactivating them and benefiting from the previous experience.”
“Municipalities are a framework for developmental action and are not trenches for political polarization or exploitation,” he added.
Fayyad said Hezbollah and the Amal Movement have forged an alliance to contest the municipal elections in joint tickets in line with the bases agreed upon in previous elections. “We don’t want this alliance to confiscate the people’s will,” he said.
MP Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement has confirmed an alliance with the Lebanese Forces to contest the municipal elections together.
Berri ruled out any delay in holding the municipal elections. “The municipal elections will certainly be carried out as there are no [reasons] that prevent it,” Berri said in remarks published by As-Safir newspaper Saturday. He expressed relief that the situation in Lebanon is much better than other countries. “I am certain that they will be held on time and preparations are underway,” he said.
Kataeb Party chief MP Sami Gemayel said the party has begun preparing for the municipal electoral battle in all areas across Lebanon, echoing others’ remarks that “nothing” stands in the way of the elections being held.
Municipal elections would be the first nationwide vote since parliamentary polls in 2009. Parliament has extended its mandate twice and the legislative body has failed to elect a president over a lack of quorum since former President Michel Sleiman’s term ended in May 2014.