Lebanon awaits an incendiary campaign – Mir – Kommersant

The Lebanese Parliament has decided on the date of the elections. Voting will take place at the end of March – almost two months earlier than the last deadline set by the law. The decision was not taken unanimously. The president’s son-in-law, the head of the Christian Free Patriotic Movement, Gibran Basil, spoke out against it. However, Prime Minister Najib Mikati pledges to do everything possible to ensure a successful vote. It is in his interest to end the political and economic uncertainty in which Lebanon finds itself.

The Lebanese Chamber of Deputies voted by majority to hold legislative elections on March 27, 2022. The elections in 2018 were held in May, and, according to the law, the current one could take place about two months later. The Lebanese president’s son-in-law and the head of the Christian Free Patriotic Movement, Gibran Basil, did not agree with the decision of the majority of the deputies. He referred to the unfavorable weather forecast for March, which he believes could reduce turnout in the mountainous – Christian – regions of the country, especially in the face of constant power and fuel interruptions. In addition, Mr. Basil recalled: the new date falls on Lent, which can also reduce the turnout of Christians in the elections.

Gibran Basil’s dissatisfaction is also explained by the fact that he failed to secure additional parliamentary seats reserved for Lebanese living abroad, as well as quotas for women.

The Lebanese diaspora first won the right to vote in 2018, and many politicians in the country fear that its activity could change the balance of power in the country in favor of pro-Western parties. According to the latest estimates, the Lebanese diaspora has about 16 million people, while the entire population of the country does not exceed 6 million people. Already, an active campaign has begun on social media, urging Lebanese abroad to register to vote. This can be done until November 20. Gibran Basil intends to challenge the decision of his colleagues in parliament. But all of Mr. Basil’s objections were answered by Prime Minister Najib Mikati. “We voted and ended the meeting,” he said.

The official version of the postponement of voting is the reluctance to campaign during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which will begin on April 2 in 2022. But there are other reasons as well. It is not in the interests of Prime Minister Mikati, whose government was approved only at the end of September, to prolong the period of uncertainty in the country. Immediately after the parliamentary elections, all members of the cabinet of ministers will receive the prefix and. So, in fact, the current government can be considered temporary even now – he has too little time left for work, which, even without that, without having time to start, actually immediately stalled. Ministers associated with the Shiite movements Hezbollah and Amal intend to boycott government meetings, thereby protesting against the actions of Judge Tarek Bitar, who is investigating the explosion in the port of Beirut last August and insists on the lifting of the judicial immunity from a number of politicians.

Lack of normal government work may cause problems with the implementation of international assistance programs for Lebanon. It is not known whether Najib Mikati will be able to agree on a plan for the financial recovery of the country’s economy with the International Monetary Fund, and the question is whether foreign sponsors will want to allocate money to Lebanon in conditions when it is not clear which government will be formed following the elections.

However, it is not yet known how quickly Lebanon will have a new cabinet after the votes are counted. Previous experience shows that the process can take several months, if not a whole year. Much will depend on the alignment of forces in parliament, and not only the composition of the government, but also the name of the future president, whom the deputies will have to elect. Michel Aoun’s term expires next October. Last time, it took 2.5 years to agree on a presidential candidacy.

More than politicians themselves, ordinary citizens dream of ending uncertainty. “The closer to the parliamentary elections, the more troubles,” Lebanese say.

Many believe that the start of the election campaign was already given last week, when in Beirut unidentified gunmen fired at supporters of the Shiite movements Hezbollah and Amal. Then seven people died, more than 30 were injured. The Shiites blamed the Lebanese Forces Christian movement led by Samir Jaadzhaa for the incident.

On Monday, the Lebanese eagerly awaited Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah’s first public appearance after the battle in Beirut. To their delight, it turned out to be not too belligerent. His main message is that Hezbollah is not interested in a civil war, that is, there is no need to expect immediate revenge, but the Shiite movement will not allow it to infringe on its interests. Hassan Nasrallah first named the number of Hezbollah fighters. According to him, this is 100 thousand against 15 thousand at the disposal of the “Lebanese forces”. “Sit quietly!” – he said, referring to Samir Jaadzhaa. Apparently, in protest against such a statement, one of the deputies from the “Lebanese Forces” came to the parliamentary session on Tuesday armed, provoking the indignation of his colleagues. “This is just the beginning,” fear the Lebanese people who are far from politics. But there are not many of them. The Lebanese population is highly politicized.

Marianna Belenkaya, Beirut

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