BEIRUT — Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati on Thursday scheduled a cabinet meeting for Tuesday, April 18 at 3:30 p.m. to discuss funding for next month's municipal elections and other socioeconomic issues.
The meeting comes as Parliament is set to hold a legislative session next Tuesday morning on potential postponement of the elections.
For weeks, the executive and legislative branches have been passing the buck to make a decision on the municipal elections, over whether to issue funds to hold them or to postpone them altogether.
The race is scheduled to begin May 7.
The last item of the agenda distributed by the Grand Serail to cabinet ministers Thursday was "the request of the interior minister regarding the coverage of municipal elections expenses."
The decision comes shortly after Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri scheduled a legislative session the same day at 11 a.m. without an agenda yet in place. A source at Parliament told L'Orient Today that the agenda will be decided in a meeting of Parliament's Bureau Office scheduled around 2 p.m.
Parliament is expected to discuss and vote on the postponement of municipal elections.
Deputy Parliament Speaker Elias Bou Saab said Wednesday that "it has become nearly impossible" for Lebanon to hold the race, blaming Najib Mikati's caretaker cabinet for failing to secure the necessary funding.
Caretaker Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi reiterated on Thursday from Bkirki his call to hold the elections on time, according to a statement published by the state-run National News Agency. He denounced a "political will" to postpone the deadline and said that his ministry is "administratively ready" but only awaits funding.
Lebanese Forces head Samir Geagea said, meanwhile, that "the blockage of the municipal elections after that of the presidential elections paralyzed the country."
In addition to financing the municipal elections, cabinet is also expected to discuss several issues, including the impact of the socioeconomic crisis on Lebanese citizens.
Caretaker Finance Minister Youssef Khalil, will reportedly be called upon to talk about "the financial and monetary situation and its repercussions on various sectors, particularly on salaries and compensation for civil servants and public sector retirees."
Ministers are also set to study several projects related to increases in transport allowances and other social benefits, as well as payment for chronic disease medicines and trash collection in Beirut.
‘Extend work of municipal councils for four months... or one year’
Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri held a meeting with the Parliament's bureau Thursday to discuss the agenda of the parliament session scheduled for Tuesday, which “will be devoted to discuss the municipal elections,” deputy parliament speaker Elias Bou Saab said in a statement.
“The first [item to be discussed in the parliament session] is to propose a law to extend the work of the municipal and elective councils for a period of four months and the second proposal is to extend the work for a period of one year,” Bou Saab said. A proposal related to the public procurement in municipalities will also be added to the agenda, he continued.
According to Bou Saab, the country will go into “complete paralysis,” if the extension of the municipal and elective councils isn’t passed and implemented. “We cannot remain waiting for the unknown in the next stage, and so in the meeting we came out with a conclusion as follows, but the General Assembly has the final call: ‘The mandate of the existing municipal and elective councils ends, as a maximum, until the date of May 31, 2024.’”
Bou Saab cited that this will help “avoid a vacuum over a period of one year."
"The government can call, starting tomorrow, to hold municipal and optional elections and when the government is ready with funding, it can hold elections whenever it wants, at the time it deems appropriate.”