Cab­i­net OKs $46 mil­lion for par­lia­men­tary elec­tions

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - FRONT PAGE - By Hus­sein Dakroub

BEIRUT: The Cab­i­net Thurs­day ap­proved al­lo­ca­tions worth LL70 bil­lion ($46.5 mil­lion) to cover the ex­penses of next year’s par­lia­men­tary elec­tions, send­ing the strong­est sig­nal yet about its de­ter­mi­na­tion to hold the polls on time.

How­ever, some min­is­ters com­plained that the ear­marked money made Lebanon’s elec­tions, the first to be held in nine years, the “most ex­pen­sive” in the world.

“This is the most ex­pen­sive elec­tion in the his­tory of the world,” Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Mar­wan Ha­madeh said after the Cab­i­net meet­ing chaired by Prime Min­is­ter Saad Hariri at the Grand Serail. Fi­nance Min­is­ter Ali Hasan Khalil echoed a sim­i­lar view, say­ing: “It is pos­si­ble that these elec­tions will be the most ex­pen­sive in the world.”

In­te­rior Min­is­ter Nouhad Mach­nouk de­fended the ap­pro­pri­a­tions, say­ing: “All the fig­ures are jus­ti­fied.”

“The al­lo­ca­tions for the up­com­ing par­lia­men­tary elec­tions have been com­pletely ap­proved,” Mach­nouk said after the meet­ing. He also re­it­er­ated that par­lia­men­tary elec­tions, planned in May 2018, would be held on time, dis­pelling fears of a post­pone­ment of the polls or a new ex­ten­sion of the leg­isla­tive body’s term which has been extended three times since the last polls in 2009.

The al­lo­ca­tions, de­manded by the In­te­rior Min­istry, would be used to pay the salaries of about 9,000 heads of polling sta­tions in Beirut and towns and vil­lages through­out the coun­try, in ad­di­tion to the cost of lo­gis­ti­cal equip­ment.

Last week, the Cab­i­net ap­proved the salaries of an 11-mem­ber com­mit­tee formed to su­per­vise the elec­tions. The Cab­i­net’s for­ma­tion of the elec­toral su­per­vi­sory com­mit­tee last month was seen as a sig­nif­i­cant step to­ward hold­ing the elec­tions.

Pres­i­dent Michel Aoun re­as­sured the Le­banese that par­lia­men­tary elec­tions would be held on time. “Ef­forts made to draft a new elec­toral law will not go in vain. Rest as­sured, par­lia­men­tary elec­tions will take place. It is a pop­u­lar and gov­ern­ment will and

no one has the abil­ity to­day to stop this path [elec­tions],” Aoun said dur­ing a meet­ing with vis­i­tors at Baabda Palace.

Dur­ing its meet­ing that lasted two hours to pon­der 52 items on the agenda, the Cab­i­net also ap­proved the for­ma­tion of the so­cio-eco­nomic coun­cil along with the 71 mem­bers pro­posed to the Cab­i­net and passed a law pro­tect­ing her­itage sites, Information Min­is­ter Mel­hem Ri­achi told re­porters.

Hariri praised the re­vival of the so­cio-eco­nomic coun­cil. “The stage is eco­nomic and we all carry so­cio-eco­nomic con­cerns. The coun­cil is a place for re­flec­tion and dia­logue among all seg­ments of so­ci­ety and the po­lit­i­cal par­ties should lis­ten to its views,” Hariri said. “There is an ac­ti­va­tion for the role of woman and 12 ladies were ap­pointed, that is 17 per­cent of the so­cio-eco­nomic coun­cil. The old­est mem­ber will call for the elec­tion of the bureau, which in turn will elect a pres­i­dent and a vice-pres­i­dent and the gov­ern­ment will ap­point a di­rec­tor-gen­eral. We hope that this will be the be­gin­ning of a se­ri­ous and pro­duc­tive co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the work­ing force and the gov­ern­ment.”

The so­cio-eco­nomic coun­cil is be­ing brought back into the limelight after it was first formed in 2000 in line with a stip­u­la­tion in the 1989 Taif Ac­cord to work on so­cial and eco­nomic projects. It has been dor­mant for over 15 years after new ap­pointees were not named when the coun­cil’s term ended in 2002. Charles Ar­bid is tipped to re­place Roger Nas­nas as coun­cil pres­i­dent.

Cul­ture Min­is­ter Ghat­tas Khoury praised the pass­ing of the law pro­tect­ing her­itage sites, say­ing that her­itage build­ings would no longer be de­mol­ished to make way for sky­scrapers. “The law pro­tect­ing arche­o­log­i­cal and her­itage build­ings ... is a his­toric step to pro­tect her­itage and arche­ol­ogy in Lebanon,” Khoury said after the meet­ing. “The im­por­tance of this law is that it found ways to com­pen­sate the own­ers of her­itage build­ings so they can ben­e­fit from their prop­er­ties and main­tain them.”

He said he would ask Speaker Nabih Berri to help in en­dors­ing this law as soon as pos­si­ble. “I also want to tell all those in­ter­ested in her­itage in Lebanon that from now on no her­itage build­ings will be removed to be re­placed by sky­scrapers, but these build­ings will be pre­served in the ap­pro­pri­ate way,” Khoury said.

Mean­while, Hariri ar­rived in Rome Thurs­day night on an of­fi­cial visit dur­ing which he will meet with Pope Fran­cis in the Vatican.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Lebanon

© PressReader. All rights reserved.