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Lebanon govt. okays new electoral law, sets date for polls

Lebanon’s cabinet has endorsed a new electoral law for parliamentary elections, paving the way for polls in May 2018.

Lebanon’s political parties on Tuesday agreed to the law that will create a proportional representation system for parliament and decreases the number of electoral districts.

They also agreed to technically extend lawmakers’ mandate for one year, avoiding a legislative vacuum when the parliament’s current term ends on June 20.

Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri said Wednesday, “Today, cabinet approved the law … with an extension of parliament’s term by 11 months for technical reasons” to prepare for the elections under the new code.

He also praised it as “a great and historic achievement despite the long time that was needed and the lengthy discussions”.

The law must be passed by the parliament.

Information Minister Melhem Riachy told reporters on Wednesday that the elections now are likely to be held on May 6, 2018, adding the chamber could extend its term until May 20.

The law ends a stalemate that has seen the ethnically-divided country not holding any legislative elections since 2009 with the lawmakers extending the parliament’s four-year term twice in a move that ignited protests in Beirut.

President Michel Aoun said after the Tuesday agreement between the political parties that the new law would create a parliament that would “honestly” represent the choices of the Lebanese people.

“The new electoral law is a key milestone in the national and political life in Lebanon,” Aoun said.