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Lebanon’s government approves new elections law

June 14, 2017
Lebanese President Michel Aoun, right, and Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, left, talk to each other during a Cabinet meeting to approve the new electoral law, at the presidential palace, in Baabda, east of Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, June 14, 2017. The Lebanese Cabinet approved a new elections law and referred it to parliament for ratification paving the way for parliamentary elections that have been postponed twice over the past year. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

BEIRUT (AP) — The Lebanese Cabinet approved a new elections law and referred it to parliament for ratification, paving the way for parliamentary elections postponed twice over the past year.

Lebanese politicians have been holding meetings for months to draft a new elections law. The new draft law was finally backed this week by Lebanon’s main Christian and Muslim groups.

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri called for a meeting to ratify the new law on Friday, and it is expected to pass easily since the largest political blocs took part in the drafting process.

During Wednesday’s meeting that approved the new draft, the term of the current parliament was extended 11 months until May 6, 2018 when the vote is scheduled.

The new law will be based on proportional representation and divides Lebanon to 15 electoral districts. Parliament seats remain equally divided between Muslims and Christians.

Politicians did not agree on setting a quota for women in parliament and also did not agree on a proposal to lower the voting age to 18 years from 21. But for the first time ever, six of the 128 parliamentary seats will be given to Lebanese expatriates.

The current parliament was elected to a four-year term in 2009, but its tenure has been extended twice over security concerns and the civil war in neighboring Syria that spilled into Lebanon on several occasions.

“What we achieved today with this election law is a historical achievement because I believe that we used to have election laws brought in from outside. This time for the first time the Lebanese sat together” and drafted it, Prime Minister Saad Hariri said during a news conference after the meeting.

Hariri was apparently referring to the time when Syria dominated Lebanon and directly controlled its politics. Syria withdrew its troops from Lebanon in 2005 after a wave of protests following the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, the father of the current premier.

The agreement came days before the legislature’s term was to end on June 20 — avoiding plunging the country into a fresh political crisis.

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