This Week In Lebanon: 2/20/22

Sunday, February 20, 2022

February 20, 2022

Mikati Reassures Elections To Be Properly Funded And Held On Time, Megacenters To Be Discussed In Cabinet
In an interview with Al-Akhbar newspaper, Prime Minister Najib Mikati reassured that Lebanon’s upcoming parliamentary elections would be held on time, clarifying that the funds for the elections are nearly secured. Though he indicated that he would likely not be running in the upcoming elections as a candidate himself, he added that, “my bloc and I will will participate and we definitely won’t boycott.” [Naharnet]

Additionally, Mikati -at the request of President Michel Aoun- tasked the Minister of Interior and Municipalities Bassam Mawlawi with studying the subject of megacenters, potentially to be incorporated in the voting operations of the upcoming elections as well as in future polls. [MTV]


“PM Mikati has rightly focused attention on the elections being held on time and with sufficient funding for measures that protect the integrity and transparency of the elections. It’s a shame the call for mega centers is being raised so late in the process with little chance of being established on time. The US can help by supporting civil society programs that promote citizen voting and by sponsoring international monitors and the ISF in protecting voting booths. PM Mikati should also call for independent counting of diaspora votes that should be held in confidence until election day. The US and its allies should sanction any individual found responsible for delaying the elections or otherwise tampering with the transparency and fairness of the election. “

-ATFL President Edward M. Gabriel

Arrest Attempt on Riad Salameh Sparks Controversy, Judge Aoun Charges ISF Head With Obstruction; Lebanon: The Clock is Ticking for the World Bank’s Lake Qaraoun Project
The State Security Forces, headed by Major General Tony Saliba, conducted raids on Central Bank governor Riad Salameh’s office and residences but was unsuccessful in bringing Salameh in for questioning. Judge Ghada Aoun, who issued the subpoena against Salameh, “charged the director-general of the Internal Security Forces, Maj. Gen. Imad Othman, with obstructing the implementation of a judicial warrant and breaching the duties of his job,” following the reports that a standoff erupted between the Internal Security Forces who were assigned to protect Salameh’s residence and the State Security agents who were sent to enforce the subpoena. [L’Orient Today]

Meanwhile, speaking of corruption, Lebanon has been found to have squandered a $55 million World Bank Loan to improve the quality of the Litani River and Lake Qaraoun. Five years after the project was awarded, only a fraction of the money has been spent and the lake remains polluted, which is a health hazard to the local community. [Daraj]

“Once  again Lebanon’s judiciary is being treated with impunity by the political elites. Regardless of the personalities involved, respect for the rule of law is a hallmark of any functioning state. Undermining the Beirut Port blast investigation, collusion between Riad Salameh and the ISF forces in  evading a court subpoena, and the egregious and illegal funneling of funds from World Bank projects to well-connected companies are just a few examples of how deeply the rot runs. It took 30 plus  years of state failure to get to this point. Multiple agreements, from the Taif Agreement up until this Parliament, have called for an independent judiciary. It is long past overdue that this becomes a reality.”

-ATFL Vice President for Policy Jean AbiNader

Lebanon Approves $18 Million to Hold May Election
On Tuesday, the Lebanese government earmarked $18 million for the country’s upcoming parliamentary elections. According to current ministers, the 2018 parliamentary elections cost the state $54 million. The international community has maintained that the May 15 elections must be on time, fair, free, and transparent. [Reuters]


“Despite the fact that the last elections in 2018 cost $54 million, Prime Minister Mikati says that only $18.5 million is available for the May elections. Is he expecting the international community to bail out the Lebanese government once more? There are no monies for expatriate voting centers, just another step in dis-enfranchising overseas Lebanese. Expatriates are being asked to find funding for the overseas polling centers. Will the government also ask the depressed and poverty-stricken Lebanese public to pay to be able to vote? Despite negotiations with the UN and international donors to support elections, it is a shame that Lebanon cannot even stand on its own for the elections.”

-ATFL Vice President for Policy Jean AbiNader

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the American Task Force on Lebanon, a non-profit, nonpartisan leadership organization of Lebanese-Americans.