Parliament postpones local elections again as violence rocks south


Parliament on Thursday delayed municipal elections for a third time in two years in a session boycotted by the Lebanese Forces MPs, as militants in the country's south exchanged near-daily fire with Israel for over six months.

Lebanon is supposed to hold municipal elections every six years, but cash-strapped authorities last held a local ballot in 2016.

Parliament approved "extending the existing municipal and elective councils' mandate until a date no later than May 31, 2025," despite objections from lawmakers opposed to Hezbollah, said the official National News Agency.

The bill cited "complex security, military and political circumstances following the Israeli aggression on Lebanon" and especially its south, near the border, as reasons for the delay.

Lawmakers did not set a new date for the elections, initially scheduled for 2022.

Local councils help provide basic services to residents but their role has declined as state coffers ran dry after Lebanon's economy collapsed in late 2019.

Municipal elections have been postponed twice previously due to funding issues. In April 2023, the Lebanese parliament had already postponed municipal elections as the deputy speaker warned holding them was "almost impossible" for the cash-strapped country after years of economic meltdown.

LF leader Samir Geagea has accused Hezbollah and its allies of obstructing anew the municipal elections in Lebanon and called on the Free Patriotic Movement MPs not to attend the session.

Yet, FPM chief Jebran Bassil considered that, in addition to the ongoing clashes in south Lebanon, the government is not ready to organize the municipal vote.

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri had previously said southern Lebanon could not be excluded from any upcoming ballot, after the Lebanese Forces insisted on holding the polls on time.

Six Change MPs left the session as they considered any legislative session unconstitutional before a president is elected.

Lebanon has faced the prolonged financial crisis and months of border clashes essentially leaderless, without a president and headed by a caretaker government with limited powers amid deadlock between entrenched political barons.

"The priority is to elect a president. In war, fighting also includes fortifying the domestic front," Change MP Melhem Khalaf said. "Because we stand in solidarity with our people in the south who are in dire need of electing a president, we have decided to withdraw from this session," he added.

Deputy Speaker and ex-FPM MP Elias Bou Saab voted against the extension. So did Change MPs Cynthia Zararir and Halima Kaakour, independant pro-Hezbollah MP Jamil al-Sayyed, and the New Lebanon bloc, while the National Moderation bloc abstained from voting.

Families of the victims and the wounded of the Beirut port blast meanwhile rallied outside parliament to demand a law that would bring justice to the blast's wounded.

After the session, Geagea described the extension as "a stab by the Axis of Resistance and the FPM against democracy in order to cover their lack of popularity."

Comments 3
Missing HellAndWaite 25 April 2024, 15:38

"Let's all agree that we are not going to follow the rules .. Okay, done .. now, whose house shall we ransack and which of our classmates shall we rape first ..?"

Missing HellAndWaite 25 April 2024, 16:41

Thumb 26 April 2024, 01:14

We all know that democracy doesn’t work, but this is a un petit peu exage, non?