Beirut- Lebanon’s upcoming parliamentary elections currently constitute the biggest challenge for political forces whose majority fear the outcome of the vote in light of a new law that forecasts uncertain victories.
Amid those fears, worries re-emerged lately concerning the possibility of once again postponing the elections, scheduled for next May, amid calls from Speaker Nabih Berri to hold elections at the end of this year before the scheduled date.
Lebanon has not held parliamentary elections since 2009. Last June, Parliament ratified a new electoral draft law based on proportional representation, with Lebanon divided into 15 electoral districts.
The law also stipulated the adoption of biometric identity cards to cast ballots during the next elections instead of the identity card.
However, this week, Berri’s parliamentary Development and Liberation Bloc submitted an urgent draft law to end Parliament’s term this year and to hold early elections before the end of 2017 amid fears of any emergency extension if Lebanon’s Interior Ministry fails to complete the biometric identity cards before next May.
Sources close to Berri’s bloc told Asharq Al-Awsat on Thursday that the Speaker’s proposal is very serious, calling on Parliament to vote on it soon.
“Parliament should either approve the proposal to hold elections before the end of this year or vote against it and in such case, each party would be responsible for his decision,” the sources said.
According to the same sources, Berri’s proposal constitutes an “early warning” to any party planning to once again postpone the date of the elections.
In response to Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil who criticized Berri’s proposal saying it would deal a blow to reforms contained in the voting law, sources close to the Speaker said: “The true rhetoric repeated by some parties is neither related to reforms nor to elections, but is rather a consensual contract that aims to postpone the elections.”
Member of Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s Future Movement parliamentary bloc MP Ammar Houri told Asharq Al-Awsat that the biometric identity card “is essential to guide Lebanon towards modernity because it contains all personal information for the voter.”
As for the Free Patriotic Movement, the party would not object extending the term of Parliament to another few months, allowing the introduction of some vital reforms to the electoral process.
“The Cabinet decided in its last session to link next year’s elections to the adoption of the biometric card, therefore, we have decided to proceed in this direction,” member of President Michel Aoun’s Change and Reform parliamentary bloc MP Mario Aoun told Asharq Al-Awsat.