Lebanese parliament extends term by 17 months in light of Syria spillover
Lebanon’s Parliament extended Friday its mandate by a period of 17 months, in the first departure of the kind by the country’s legislature since the end of 1975-90 Civil War.
Ninety-seven MPs, according to the National News Agency, voted in favor of extending the legislature’s mandate, ending the possibility of holding the elections which were due to be held on June 16.
Barring the Free Patriotic Movement, both March 8 and March 14 parties agreed on extending Parliament’s term earlier this week, given the failure to agree on a new electoral law and the worsening security situation in the country linked to the crisis in neighboring Syria.
Speaking following the Friday decision, Future parliamentary bloc leader MP Fouad Siniora said the extension was needed given the political deadlock, which he said centered on the authority of the state.
Referring to the formation of a new Cabinet, Siniora stressed the need for an a-political government that no one could object to.
Marada Movement leader MP Suleiman Franjieh, an ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, said the extension was needed in order to prevent disputes among political rivals spilling onto the streets.
He said historical and geographic factors meant Lebanon was heavily involved in the Syria crisis and that his party’s decision to extend Parliament’s mandate did not mean it sought an extension of President Michel Sleiman’s term.
Sleiman has stated he will challenge the extension if passed. FPM MPs, who boycotted the session, have also vowed to challenge the move. However, experts say the Constitutional Council will likely turn these down given that the majority of the 128-member assembly backs the extension.
Following a meeting he chaired for his bloc in the afternoon.
“You ask me about the reasons behind the challenge, they are so many...the extension law neither respects the Constitution nor traditions,” Aoun added.
“They said they want to extend [Parliaments’ term] because there is a political crisis. I say that when there is a political crisis, Parliament’s term is shortened rather than extended,” Aoun said.
In reference to the Lebanese Forces, Aoun said there was nothing to guarantee that a new electoral law would be passed after a year.
The European Union expressed regret that the elections would not be held as scheduled.
“In light of the decision to extend Parliament's term, the European Union urges all the political parties to use the extension to agree on an electoral law, and fix a new date for elections,” a statement from the EU said.
“The European Union encourages the formation of a government, without delay, to re-establish the confidence of the Lebanese citizens in their democratic institutions in order to overcome the pressing challenges Lebanon faces today,” it added.
The United Nations, through its Special Coordinator for Lebanon Derek Plumbly, also expressed regret that no deal over the elections had been reached.
“As parliament gathered to discuss the possible extension of its mandate, he [Plumbly] said that – while it was clearly important to ensure the continuity of institutions – it was a matter of regret that no agreement had been reached on elections,” a statement from his office said.
“[Plumbly] added that the United Nations would continue to encourage all parties in Lebanon to work for the expeditious conduct of parliamentary elections in line with the country’s longstanding democratic tradition,” it added.