To some legislators' consternation but to no one's real surprise, Lebanon's parliamentary elections have been delayed yet again for at least three months.
On April 12, the day before parliament was scheduled to meet, President Michel Aoun invoked Article 59 of the Lebanese Constitution, which allows him to postpone a parliamentary session for one month. He may do so once during the legislative term.
Speaker Nabih Berri had called for the session to discuss extending parliament’s term, as members failed to agree on a new electoral law before a constitutional deadline expired. Aoun wants a new law implemented before elections are held for parliament, whose term ends June 21. He doesn't want the legislature to extend its own term without elections, which he considers illegal, but he also doesn't want a legislative vacuum. However, the constitution requires that voters be given 90 days to prepare for an election, so — because of repeated delays — one now can't be scheduled before August at the earliest.
In a televised speech, Aoun addressed the Lebanese people, saying, “I have warned repeatedly against the extension since it is unconstitutional and will definitely not be the path toward the recovery of the government and its authorities and institutions on a sound constitutional basis.”
Minutes after Aoun announced his decision, Berri set another session for May 15. In the meantime, Lebanese political forces continue their quest to agree on an electoral law by then. Simon Abi Ramia, a member of parliament's Change and Reform bloc, told Al-Monitor that despite differences between the parties, political forces seek to agree on a new electoral law and his political bloc will strive to prevent a parliamentary extension by all means.
Aoun wants to replace the contested 1960 Electoral Law, which is based on a majoritarian (winner-take-all) district electoral system with limited exceptions. That law allows Muslim leaders to select Christian parliament members in some constituencies. Aoun, a Maronite Christian, along with Hezbollah and the Amal Movement, are insisting on a "total proportionality" system, while others want either a hybrid law or the majoritarian system.