DAMASCUS, SYRIA (11:20 PM) – Lebanese Minister of the Interior Nohad Machnouk has signed a decree on Friday that officially sets the date for the Lebanese legislative elections to be May 6, 2018. This decision marks the first time in almosta decade that Lebanon will have parliamentary elections.
Elections were postponed no less than three times since the last elections took place in 2009, with reasons cited for the decisions ranging from security concerns and political crisis to a dispute over the election law. Finally, in June 2017 the administration of Prime Minister Saad Hariri agreed on a deal, but it took until now to finalise the agreement.
The May 6 elections are expected to possibly shake up the Lebanese political landscape significantly. The generally pro-Western and Saudi-backed political coalition of Hariri has broken up recently, leading him to a power-sharing agreement with its polar opposition, the popular Shia movement Hezbollah. Hezbollah has been increasing its powerbase significantly in the past years, after successful military operations in support of the Syrian government against ISIS and Al-Qaeda rebels.
In response to the growing influence of Hezbollah, and possibly under influence of Saudi Arabia, Hariri sparked another crisis last month by resigning from his function while visiting Riyadh, and denouncing Hezbollah and Iran in a video message. The prime minister stayed abroad for two weeks, before returning to Lebanon and withdrawing his resignation last week.
Lebanon has a complex electoral system based on the country’s numerous confessional demographic groups, aimed at preserving peace and distributing power between the Sunni, Shia, Christian and Druze communities. The 128-seat parliament includes 64 seats for Christians, subdivided among seven denominations, and 64 seats for Muslims, with an equal number of Sunnis and Shi‘ites.
According to law, the president of the nation must be a Maronite Christian, the Prime Minister a Sunni Muslim, and the Speaker of Parliament a Shia Muslim.