Parliament suspends candidacies for elections...

Parliament suspends candidacies for elections

Lebanons Parliament agreed Wednesday to suspend the candidacies for the upcoming elections, which would allow lawmakers more time to formulate a new electoral law.

Caretaker Environment Minister Nazem Khoury told The Daily Star that President Michel Sleiman will sign the draft law.

Although the president expressed reservations over suspending deadlines and prefers extending them, he will sign the draft law to avoid candidates wining unopposed in the upcoming elections, Khoury, who is close to Sleiman, said.

He added that the president was eager that the elections be held under a new electoral law.

Lawmakers approved an amendment to the 1960 electoral law to suspend applications for candidacies until May 19, followed by a three-week period where potential candidates could apply.

The candidates would have two weeks to withdraw their applications before the elections, which were postponed to June 16 as a result of a decree issued by the Interior Ministry and Sleiman.

After lawmakers, with the exception of MP Walid Jumblatt's bloc, voted to pass the amendment, Speaker Nabih Berri said the aim behind Wednesdays session was to give parliamentarians more time to agree on a new electoral law.

With this amendment, I am buying a month so we could agree on a new electoral law, he said.

And if we fail to agree, I will call for a [legislative] session. [If we have to] we will sleep here until we reach an agreement.

Speaking to the Daily Star, parliamentary sources described the amendment as a compromise, but noted that such a change does not annul the 1960 law.

Parliament was scheduled to convene on Tuesday to resolve the issue, but its secretariat failed to agree on a unified proposal to suspend the deadline for candidacies.

Only candidates with Jumblatts Progressive Socialist Party and a number of independents have officially announced their intention to run in the upcoming parliamentary elections.

Speaking to reporters following a meeting chaired by Speaker Nabih Berri that gathered lawmakers from various political parties, caretaker Social Affairs Minister and PSP MP ,Wael Abu Faour, said his bloc would boycott todays session.

We will not attend the session and we have announced our reservations for a session that will be held in the absence of a main component of [political life], Abu Faour said.

He also voiced fears over what he described as attempts to override the Taif Accord which is no longer accepted by some politicians.

The sources also said that the PSP is concerned that Wednesdays session was a step towards annulling the 1960 law, consequently delaying the election in the absence of an agreement on a new law.