June 2, 2017 / 10:22 AM / 10 months ago

Lebanon election needs at least six months preparation: minister

BEIRUT (Reuters) - At least six months of preparation will be necessary before a Lebanese parliamentary election can be held under any new law, Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk said on Friday.

Lebanon's President Michel Aoun (L) meets with Lebanon's Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk at the Presidential Palace in Baabda, Lebanon June 1, 2017. Dalati Nohra/Handout via Reuters

Lebanese politicians have indicated they are close to agreeing a new election law after months of wrangling over how to conduct the polls.

Politics in Lebanon have long been dogged by sectarian divisions, exacerbated by the Syrian conflict and complicated by regional Iranian-Saudi rivalry. Activists accuse Lebanese politicians of using regional upheaval as an excuse to dodge elections.

Parliament’s term is due to expire on June 20, after lawmakers extended their own mandate twice without election since 2013. Current lawmakers were elected in 2009 for what was meant to be a four-year term.

“It will require between six to seven months” to train staff on the new law and prepare logistics, Machnouk said in televised comments after meeting Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri.

“We have the ability to receive aid from the United Nations and donor states encouraging democracy,” which would also take at least six months, he added.

Disputes over the law, at the heart of the nation’s sectarian system, had put Lebanon on the brink of crisis, threatening to leave it without a parliament for the first time.

A so-called “technical delay” of a few months looks inevitable, though leaders have ruled out a longer extension on concerns of a popular backlash that could cause unrest.

Protests rocked central Beirut after the two previous extensions, which critics including the European Union have condemned as unconstitutional.

Reporting by Ellen Francis; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Alison Williams and Stephen Powell

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