BEIRUT: Lebanon’s rival political parties clashed Tuesday over the amendment of Lebanon’s new election law after the Interior Ministry had ruled out the possibility of issuing biometrics IDs on time due to logistical circumstances.
Speaking following a meeting of the ministerial election law committee, Foreign Minister and Free Patriotic Movement President Gebran Bassil called for “the amendment of articles related to the biometric ID as they will not be implemented in due time.”
Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil, a member of Speaker Nabih Berri's Amal Movement, on the other hand, said the priority was for the elections--the first to be held since 2009--to go ahead as scheduled, adding that dropping the biometric ID proposal “doesn’t necessarily entail an amendment of the law.”
The disagreement over the need to amend the election law signals a deepening rift between President Michel Aoun, founder of the FPM, and Berri, as they continue to clash over a decree that advances the ranks of army officers who served under Aoun in the late 1980’s.
Berri has vehemently opposed introducing even the slightest amendment to the recently ratified electoral law, arguing that it would thrust the country into open-ended deliberations over potential new amendments.
Lebanon’s new electoral law, which is based on proportional representation, was ratified in June of 2017 after years of political bickering. The law stipulates in Article 84 that Lebanon’s Cabinet has to take all necessary steps to implement the Biometric ID proposal, which would make it easier for citizens to vote from within their area of residence instead of traveling to their home district.
Yet, Article 94 of the law allows voters to cast their ballots using their national identity card or Lebanese passport.
Disagreements also emerged over the proposed mega voting centers, with Minister of Social Affairs Pierre Bou Assi, a member of the Lebanese Forces, expressing his “hope that they will be adopted," a statement echoed by Bassil.
Bassil said “the adoption of mega voting centers is still on the books”, while Khalil maintained that “executing such a project would be extremely difficult.”
“In light of today’s session, we concluded that establishing mega voting centers is out of the question”, Khalil said.
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