Lebanon’s parliament on Tuesday postponed municipal elections for up to a year for a second time amid concerns the government would not be able to secure the needed funding in time for the polling.
The delay comes as Lebanon’s economy and infrastructure continue to crumble, with legislators in the deeply divided parliament unable to reach a settlement to end a presidential vacuum for almost six months, The Associated Press said.
Lebanon has also been without a fully functioning government for nearly a year as Prime Minister Najib Mikati is heading a caretaker Cabinet with limited functions. The country has also been in a severe economic crisis since late 2019, with three-quarters of the population now living in poverty.
Lebanon’s municipality elections were originally slated for May 2022 but were postponed for a year because they coincided with parliamentary elections, which brought in a dozen reformist lawmakers running on anti-establishment platforms.
Earlier this month, caretaker Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi, whose ministry oversees elections, said that Lebanon was ready to hold timely municipality elections, and that he had secured funding from the European Union and the United Nations to ease the burden on the country’s shoestring budget.
Both the EU and the UN have urged the crisis-hit country to hold elections on time.
However, legislators have yet to pass a draft law that would secure an advance to the Interior Ministry.
Deputy Speaker Elias Bou Saab said in a parliamentary committee session on funding that holding the vote on time would be “impossible” and added that Mawlawi’s representative had told lawmakers they could not secure the funds despite the interior minister’s claims.
Lebanon’s last municipal elections in 2016 saw low voter turnout. In Beirut, local media reported a 20% voter turnout, whereas 48% of voters in Baalbek near the Syrian border cast their ballots.
In Lebanon’s sect-based power-sharing system, citizens only directly vote in parliamentary and municipal elections. Parliamentarians, split evenly between Muslim and Christian sects vote for a Maronite Christian president, who then negotiates alongside them to bring in a Sunni Muslim prime minister. The speaker of parliament is a Shiite Muslim.