Lebanon approves $18 million to hold May election

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BEIRUT, Feb 15 (Reuters) - Lebanon's government on Tuesday approved the allocation of 360 billion Lebanese pounds ($18 million) to hold a parliamentary election, Telecoms Minister Johnny Corm told Reuters following a cabinet meeting.

Lebanon went into financial meltdown in 2019 and some officials had raised concerns over elections potentially being postponed over financial constraints.

Speaking after the cabinet session, acting Information Minister Abbas Halabi quoted Prime Minister Najib Mikati as saying the last vote in 2018 had cost the state $54 million, but only a much smaller amount was available now.

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The United Nations and Western governments have repeatedly urged Lebanese leaders to hold elections on time and allocate the appropriate funding, amid fears that powerful political parties could seek to use the financial crisis as a pretext to postpone the vote.

The May 15 election would be the first for the 128-member legislature since mass protests in October 2019 against political elites widely seen as responsible for decades of corruption and mismanagement.

The United Nations special coordinator for Lebanon, Joanna Wronecka, had earlier on Tuesday "stressed the importance of holding the elections on time," a U.N. statement said.

"I hope that the Council of Ministers will approve the electoral budget...so that preparations can proceed swiftly and no shadow of uncertainty hangs over the election," Wronecka said, according to the statement.

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Reporting by Timour Azhari and Mahmoud Mourad Editing by Peter Graff and Mark Heinrich

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