BEIRUT: Lebanon’s caretaker government endorsed Monday holding general elections on June 16, approving the formation of an election supervisory committee and funding for the polls.
Reported last-minute requests to run in the polls by Kataeb Party members and Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati also signaled that a deal over extending Parliament’s term had yet to be finalized.
During the session, the first Cabinet meeting since President Michel Sleiman accepted the resignation of the government in late March, ministers agreed to go forward with the parliamentary vote and fund the preparations for the general elections, allocating LL22 billion, or $14.6 million, to the Interior Ministry.
Nadim Abdel-Malek and Andre Sader were appointed as head and deputy head of the committee respectively. Salim Qusta, Khaldoun Naja, Ghada Hallawi, Othman Majzoub, Khalil Hindi, Atallah Ghasham and Simon Haddad were also appointed members of the supervisory committee.
Mikati, speaking after the short Cabinet session, said the decision to hold the elections was overdue.
“Two months ago the president was adamant that all the necessary steps for holding the elections be taken. Today the opponents [of the steps] agreed because the president was in the right in his demands two months ago over the appointment of the supervisory committee,” he said.
In March, the government tendered its resignation after a fall out among ministers over the formation of the supervisory committee and extending the mandate of then police chief Maj. Gen. Ashraf Rifi.
Mikati said discussions during the meeting were elections-related in “order to hold the polls on the basis of the law in effect,” referring to the much-opposed 1960 law used in the 2009 parliamentary elections.
“We’d wished the electoral was different but reality demands that we fulfill our duties to comply with the law in effect,” he said.
“We will go ahead with the law in effect and the supervisory committee,” he added.
Concerning a possible extension of Parliament’s term, Mikati said: “To be honest, there were efforts for an extension but this is a matter for Parliament and the Cabinet is adamant about holding the polls.”
A failure by lawmakers to reach a deal over an alternative to the 1960 law has left parliamentarians with limited options: either to hold the elections under the 1960 law or extend Parliament’s term.
The current Parliament’s term expires on June 20.
Kataeb Party sources told The Daily Star that 16 candidates would submit their applications later tonight to run in the elections under the 1960 law – a qada-based, winner-takes-all voting system.
Political sources also said Mikati would also submit his candidacy before the deadline for filing requests – midnight Monday – expires.
The last-minute submissions indicate that a deal to extend Parliament’s mandate has yet to be finalized. - Additional reporting by Hasan Lakkis