BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanese lawmakers agreed on Friday to postpone a June parliamentary election until late next year due to political deadlock and the civil war in neighboring Syria.
The election is now expected to be held in November 2014. It is the first time a parliament has decided to extend its session since Lebanon’s own 1975-1990 civil war.
A senior political source who took part in the vote which extended parliament’s term told Reuters: “They endorsed it in 10 minutes.”
Even before violence escalated in Lebanon last week, politicians were deeply divided over changes to the electoral law and had already put the June poll date in serious doubt.
Most political parties oppose the existing first-past-the-post style system and have been discussing a hybrid law which would introduce an element of proportional representation. But they have failed to reach consensus on a new law.
Agreement for an extension was reached as a battle took place on the Syrian-Lebanese border in which fighters from Lebanon’s Shi’ite Hezbollah political and militant movement have been openly involved. The fighting provoked clashes in Tripoli as gunmen for and against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad took to the streets.
The sense of drift over the election, coupled with the failure of prime minister designate Tammam Salam to form a government after two months of talks, has left a sense of political vacuum in a country struggling with economic slowdown and a refugee tide from Syria.
Reporting by Mariam Karouny and Laila Bassam; Editing by Angus MacSwan