Lebanon may be entering its most serious political crisis since its devastating civil war ended in 1970. Parliamentary elections were meant to be held on Sunday but have been postponed for the third time since 2009.
Sectarian gridlock over Lebanon’s 1960 Electoral Law—which splits the 128-seat legislature equally between Christians and Muslims—has crippled parliament. Although Maronite Christian President Michel Aoun wants a ‘total proportionality system’ to allow more Christian seats to be decided by Christian voters, others insist on hybridised or majoritarian systems.
Failure to reach some sort of agreement before the government’s term expires on June 20 could leave Lebanon without a parliament for the first time. To avoid this, a short-term ‘technical extension’ to allow time for a deal is almost inevitable.
Leaders are determined to contain sectarian tensions that have already been inflamed by the Syrian conflict, so civil conflict is unlikely. But expect protests and economic strife as Lebanon’s poorly-functioning government struggles under the burden of staggering public debt and 1.5 million Syrian refugees.