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Yesterday, former Finance Minister Jihad Azour officially announced his candidacy ahead of tomorrow’s 12th Parliamentary presidential election session. Azour emphasized that his candidacy is “a challenge to no one” and has “total independence from outside interference.” Azour temporarily suspended his duties as a senior official at the International Monetary Fund last week after receiving a wave of support from the Lebanese Forces (LF), the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) and opposition members. Yesterday, the head of Hezbollah's parliamentary bloc, Mohammad Raad, accused Azour’s supporters of using him solely to block the election of their preferred candidate, Marada Movement head Sleiman Frangieh. In an interview published yesterday in Nidaa al-Watan, LF leader Samir Geagea noted the possibility that tomorrow’s session might fail to achieve quorum after a first round of voting. “I don't want to impose myself on anyone, and I have no problem if a national, unifying candidate is agreed upon,” Frangieh said on Sunday.
The caretaker cabinet is set to convene today for a "special" session at 3 p.m. to discuss the repatriation of Syrian refugees and the appointment of two French lawyers to represent Lebanon in the legal proceedings France has brought against Banque du Liban (BDL) governor Riad Salameh. Among other items, the ministers will examine a request from caretaker Justice Minister Henri Khoury to set up a private agreement with two French criminal lawyers to assist the head of the State Litigation Department, judge Hélène Iskandar, in the case against Anna Kosakova, the BDL governor’s former romantic companion.
French President Emmanuel Macron’s newly-appointed personal envoy to Lebanon, former French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, is scheduled to visit Beirut next week, caretaker Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib announced Monday. “We welcome him, especially since he is a veteran diplomat, and we wish him success in his mission," Bou Habib added after a meeting with France’s Ambassador to Lebanon Anne Grillo. Last Wednesday, Macron announced Le Drian’s appointment “in order to discuss with all those who, in Lebanon and abroad, can contribute to breaking the deadlock.” Bou Habib added: “Ambassador Grillo also informed me of the possibility of her leaving Lebanon next August.”
Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati requested a series of preparations ahead of the expected arrival of hundreds of thousands of tourists, including maintenance work at Beirut’s airport, regulating public transport fares and ensuring the quality of summer resorts. Last month, caretaker Tourism Minister Walid Nassar estimated that the country could expect to see 2.2 million tourists arrive this year, generating no less than $9 billion in revenue for the country. Ahead of the winter holidays last year, the government undertook several security measures, including attempts to curb celebratory gunfire.
State electricity provider Electricité du Liban (EDL) employees announced a three-day strike between today and Thursday to protest deteriorating working conditions. The EDL employees’ statement denounced receiving inadequate healthcare provisions and delayed salary payments. The three-day strike will not affect maintenance work and power plant operations, the striking employees said. EDL employees, alongside other public sector workers, have repeatedly held strikes and other protests to demand improved working conditions amid the continued deterioration of their salaries.
The Telecoms and Finance Ministries traded blame over delays in financing employees’ salaries and fuel procurement for refilling depleted transmission stations run by state telecom operator Ogero. The Finance Ministry claimed that the necessary funds were transferred and that it was up to the Telecoms Ministry to contact BDL to obtain them. The Telecoms Ministry, however, claimed it cannot go through the procedures to release the funds until it re-appoints a “senior accountant.” Meanwhile, a source at Ogero said that its stations had “normal activity” yesterday, denying rumors of an imminent country-wide telecoms shutdown. Fears spread of widespread telecom outages after Ogero chief Imad Kreidieh warned of looming transmission station shutdowns due to fuel shortages.
In case you missed it, here’s our must-read story from yesterday: “The Airbnb wave sweeps through Beirut”
Compiled by Abbas Mahfouz