Hariri Chairs Cabinet Meeting: Holding Elections is Govt.’s Priority

Lebanon's new Prime Minister Saad Hariri speaks to journalists following his nomination at the presidential palace in Baabda, near Beirut, on November 3, 2016. Hariri was nominated to form a cabinet by his one-time political adversary, President Michel Aoun, who took office this week after receiving the surprise support of his old foe. / AFP PHOTO / ANWAR AMRO

Prime Minister Saad Hariri presided Wednesday over a Cabinet session at the Grand Serail, during which he stressed that the government’s “priority” is the organization of parliamentary elections.

At the beginning of the session, Hariri lauded President Michel Aoun’s speech before the the diplomatic corps and “the national inclinations it included.”

“I stress that our priority in the government is to hold the parliamentary elections and that our agenda will never include – neither secretly nor publicly – any intentions or desire to extend the parliament’s term,” the premier added.

“All political forces represented in the government are concerned with realizing this approach, as much as they are concerned with agreeing on a new electoral law based on unified standards that ensure fair representation,” Hariri said.

The session had 32 items on its agenda. The issue of amending the Lebanese Petroleum Administration’s financial system was postponed to the next session, Information Minister Melhem Riachi said after the session.

Asked whether the Cabinet discussed the issues of the Costa Brava garbage landfill, flight safety at Beirut’s airport and the bird-repelling devices that have been offered as a grant, Riachi said the conferees tackled the topic and that it would be thoroughly discussed by the competent ministerial panel.

State Minister for Women’s Affairs Jean Oghassabian said the Cabinet discussed “an idea for a reevaluation of the entire waste management file.”

Speaker Nabih Berri and Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq have warned that the country is likely headed to parliamentary elections under the controversial 1960 electoral law due to the parties’ failure to agree on a new law.

Hizbullah has repeatedly called for an electoral law fully based on proportional representation but other political parties, especially Mustaqbal and the Progressive Socialist Party, have rejected the proposal, arguing that Hizbullah’s weapons would prevent serious competition in regions where the Iran-backed party has clout.

Mustaqbal, the Lebanese Forces and the PSP have meanwhile proposed a hybrid electoral law that mixes the proportional representation and the winner-takes-all systems. Berri has also proposed a hybrid law.

The country has not voted for a parliament since 2009, with the legislature instead twice extending its own mandate.

The 2009 polls were held under an amended version of the 1960 electoral law and the next elections are scheduled for May 2017.