Lebanon's parliament postpones municipal elections

Tuesday's session, boycotted by a number of MPs, ends with vote to reschedule polls

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Lebanon’s Parliament convened on Tuesday, despite a boycott by some members of the assembly.

The meeting of MPs takes place as there are questions about the legality of holding a session before a president is elected.

The session, with a quorum of 66 MPs, lasted less than an hour and culminated in a vote in which it was decided to postpone the country’s municipal elections, scheduled for May 7, by a year because of a lack of funding.

The municipal elections were originally to take place in May last year, but were delayed until this year because of conflict with the country’s parliamentary elections, which did take place in May.

Lebanon has suffered from an economic crisis since 2019 that has depleted state finances, caused the national currency to plummet to a fraction of its worth, led to a triple-digit rise in inflation and left more than 80 per cent of its population impoverished.

With the state unable to pay living wages to employees, the public sector is on the verge of collapse.

Tuesday’s session was boycotted by the Lebanese Forces and the Kataeb, two Christian parties defined by their opposition to those aligned with Syria. It was also boycotted by MPs of the Forces of Change, a loose coalition of independents.

“This session is unconstitutional,” Change movement MP Melhem Khalaf told the press before the session, which he did not attend. “It’s one episode in a series of serious constitutional violations that … undermine democracy in Lebanon.”

“The attempt to sway the municipal elections and hinder the rotation of local authorities” is one of the most serious violations undermining the country’s democracy, he said.

Constitutionally, in the absence of a president, Lebanon’s Parliament can meet only for electoral sessions until a head of state is appointed.

The mandate of president Michel Aoun ended in October and the country has been without a replacement for six months, during which the polarised parliament has been unable to agree on new leadership.

It has been three months since the legislative council last convened.

For the time being, Lebanon is held together by a caretaker government with limited powers. A new cabinet cannot be formed until a president is elected, and there is debate on whether it, too, can legally convene.

Updated: April 18, 2023, 5:28 PM