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Morning Brief

Opposition wins engineers’ syndicate election, drug price hike, Eid al-Adha: Everything you need to know today

Here’s what happened over the weekend and what to expect today, Monday, July 19, and this week

Voting took place in the second round of elections for the Order of Engineers and Architects on Sunday. (Credit: Naqaba Tantafid Instagram page)

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A coalition of opposition groups won a second landslide victory during the elections for the Order of Engineers and Architects in Beirut. Aaref Yassine was elected head of the order, leading a ticket that also took nine out of the 10 council seats up for grabs. The victory is the second win for Naqaba Tantafid (“The Order Revolts”) over traditional political parties in less than a month, coming after the independent coalition’s victory during the union’s first phase of elections in June, when it secured 221 of the 283 seats in the Council of Delegates and 15 of 20 seats in four branches’ councils.

The Health Ministry released a long-awaited list of more than 1,500 drug products that will no longer be subsidized, adding to health care workers’ worries. Assem Araji, the head of Parliament’s Health Committee, told our sister publication, L’Orient-Le Jour, that drugs not requiring a prescription will be partially subsidized at a rate of LL3,900 to the US dollar. He said this move should discourage the smuggling of cheap medications for sale at exorbitant prices abroad. However, the head of the Association of Lebanese Pharmaceutical Importers and Wholesalers, told L’Orient-Le Jour he was not convinced that ending subsidies would be effective, indicating that the move may lead to greater price hikes for consumers than the ministry has laid out.

Électricité de Zahlé will start rationing power for four hours a day beginning today. The director of the central Bekaa power utility said the cuts are due to an inability to secure diesel at the official price, and will therefore allow the company to maintain its financial balance while preventing a hike in electricity bills. The move follows an announcement made earlier this month that EDZ would ration electricity for industrial customers and turn off streetlamps, although it subsequently walked back this decision. EDZ relies on subsidized power from the state utility, Électricité du Liban, which in recent weeks has been unable to provide more than a few hours of power nationwide.

France will hold an “international conference to support the Lebanese people” on Aug. 4, the country’s Foreign Ministry announced. The move follows Saad Hariri’s decision on Thursday to step aside as premier-designate, fomenting political uncertainty and sending the government formation process back to square one 11 months after Hassan Diab’s cabinet resigned. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Hariri’s withdrawal was a “disappointing development” and that Lebanon’s “political leaders have squandered the ... nine months” since Hariri was designated to form a cabinet. Much potential aid to Lebanon is conditioned on reforms requiring the government’s formation. France’s choice to schedule the conference for Aug. 4, a day of mourning to mark the first anniversary of the devastating Beirut port explosion, drew criticism on social media.

French anti-corruption judges took over the probe into the personal wealth of Riad Salameh, raising the likelihood that he may face money laundering charges. Following a similar move by Switzerland, where Salameh has been under investigation for months, France in May had opened a probe into the personal wealth of the Banque du Liban governor. On July 2, France’s Financial Prosecutor’s Office handed over its findings for a judicial inquiry into allegations of aggravated money laundering, the office said on Friday. Salameh, who has headed Lebanon’s central bank since 1993, has seen his personal stock fall since Lebanon’s financial crisis began and has been accused of executing highly unorthodox financial engineering operations that aggravated state and financial sector losses and worsened the lira’s collapse.

Lebanon, along with Muslims worldwide, celebrates Eid al-Adha this week. Government offices and many businesses will close Tuesday–Thursday of this week.

The Morning Brief will go on hiatus over the Eid al-Adha holiday, observed Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in Lebanon. We’ll be back on Friday with everything you need to know to start your weekend.


Want to get the Morning Brief by email. Click here to sign up.A coalition of opposition groups won a second landslide victory during the elections for the Order of Engineers and Architects in Beirut. Aaref Yassine was elected head of the order, leading a ticket that also took nine out of the 10 council seats up for grabs. The victory is the second win for Naqaba Tantafid (“The Order...