September 18, 2017 / 2:22 PM / 2 years ago

Lebanon parliament speaker proposes vote by year-end

FILE PHOTO: Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri gestures at the presidential palace in Baabda, near Beirut, Lebanon November 3, 2016. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir/File Photo

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanon’s parliament speaker on Monday proposed holding a legislative election before the end of the year, bringing it forward from May 2018.

The proposal “supports the national interest ... (and is) in the spirit of the law where elections must be held as soon as possible,” Nabih Berri said in a televised statement.

The current parliament’s mandate would, under the proposal, end on Dec. 31 with the election to take place before that date, he said.

Lebanon’s parliament has extended its own mandate three times since current lawmakers were elected in 2009 for what was meant to be a four-year term.

In June the cabinet approved a new law which extended parliament’s term for 11 months for “technical reasons”, tentatively setting elections for May 2018.

Sectarian divisions have long plagued politics in Lebanon, exacerbated by the Syrian conflict and complicated by rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which back different groups in the country. Lebanese activists accuse politicians of using regional upheaval as an excuse to dodge elections.

Political wrangling left the country without a president for 29 months before Michel Aoun was elected in October last year.

Reporting by John Davison; editing by Andrew Roche

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