Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Lebanon postpones local elections to avoid further political paralysis

Lebanon's parliament has voted to extend the terms of municipal councils and other local officials, delaying elections by a year to avoid more political paralysis in a country grappling with economic meltdown.

Lebanon’s state institutions are already in a power vacuum, with the presidency empty since Michel Aoun’s term expired in October 2022 and no agreement as to who should replace him.

The government is also operating in a limited caretaker capacity.

Staggered municipal and council elections had been scheduled for May but funding has not yet been secured by the state, according to caretaker Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi.

Lawmakers approved a “technical extension” until May 31, 2024 for the municipal councils and local officials responsible for issuing basic civil documents, saying it would at least protect another state institution from being emptied out.

“Are we supposed to paralyse the state even more?” stated lawmaker Bilal Abdallah after the vote.

Some parliamentarians, including from the Lebanese Forces party boycotted the vote, saying elections were a right.

Others have disputed parliament’s ability to legislate at all, arguing that the constitution stipulates it should elect a president before working on laws.

The current 128-member parliament was elected in May 2022 in the first vote since the country’s economy began to unravel in 2019 and a devastating blast hit Beirut port the following year.

Lawmakers have held repeated sessions to elect a new president in recent months but no candidate was able to secure a majority.

Lebanon’s economy has been crippled by the collapse of its currency, which has lost some 98% of its value against the US dollar since 2019, triggering triple-digit inflation and plunging many into poverty.

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