Wide Western Criticism over Extension Bid as Parliament Set to Vote on it

A parliamentary session set to be held on Friday to vote for the extension of its mandate by around 17 months drew sharp criticism amid vows by President Michel Suleiman and Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun to challenge the decision.

According to al-Joumhouria newspaper the United States and several European countries slammed the move through diplomatic channels.

Sources told the newspaper that the western diplomats don't understand the conditions that compelled the extension of the parliament by 17 months as the controversy over the new electoral law will not be resolved.

“The circumstances didn't change... And the turmoil in Syria will further complicate the situation in Lebanon,” the sources said.

An Nahar newspaper reported that Speaker Nabih Berri will brief lawmakers at the beginning of the session on the reasons behind the extension followed by a speech for MP Nicolas Fattoush, who proposed the extension of the legislature term by two years.

However, the newspaper pointed out that the two-year period proposed by Fattoush is expected to be modified.

Rival parties have failed to agree on an electoral law to govern the June 16 parliamentary elections and the majority of them opposed the 1960 law that was used in the 2009 polls.

The lack of consensus compelled them to agree on an extension despite differences on the duration. Some blocs are backing a 15-month extension while others are backing an 17-month period.

The extension of the 128-seat legislature's term by up to 17 months marks the first time that parliament has had to extend its term since Lebanon's civil war ended in 1975-90.

The decision by Berri to call for a plenary session followed an agreement between most political factions that the worsening security situation has made campaigning and voting impossible, and that postponing it may ease soaring tensions.

Parliament's current term ends June 20.

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