High-ranking ministerial sources told The Daily Star that an agreement was reached between President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Saad Hariri to hold by-elections to fill the three vacant seats in Parliament.
The seats – one Maronite in Kesrouan and Tripoli’s Alawite and Greek Orthodox seats – as per the Lebanese Constitution should be filled as long as there is more than six months left in the active Parliament’s term. Currently, there are 11 months until the next elections and it is expected that Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk will call on electoral supervisory bodies this month to prepare for a set date this coming September. Supervisory bodies need just one month to study the electoral law for a by-election, as opposed to three months to prepare for a general election.
Leaving Wednesday’s Cabinet session, Machnouk told reporters that the exact date would be decided next week. “The decree to call on supervisory electoral bodies does not need a Cabinet decision,” Machnouk said.
The by-elections are to be conducted under the now-replaced 1960 winner-takes-all system. This is in line with the new electoral law, passed last month, which states in Article 43 the following: “Parliamentary by-elections to fill vacant parliamentary seats are to be held based on the majoritarian system in one round and the interior minister will decide the location(s) of the polling stations. However, if there are more than two vacant seats in the electoral district, the proportional representation electoral law will be used.”
Sources have said the vacant seats due to Robert Fadel’s resignation as Tripoli Greek Orthodox MP, the death of Tripoli Alawite MP Badr Wannous and the election of Aoun, formerly a Kesrouan Maronite MP, as president would allow for three new MPs to be elected.
A high-ranking source in the Free Patriotic Movement told The Daily Star that their candidate for the Kesrouan seat would be retired Brig. Gen. Chamel Roukoz.
However, sources familiar with the electoral process in the district said the Lebanese Forces have not decided whether to endorse Roukoz or someone else. The sources said that it would be in the LF’s best interests to endorse the FPM’s candidate as they look forward to aligning with each other in the general elections in May 2018, especially because the LF is relatively weak in the district, which the FPM swept in the last elections. If the LF decides to endorse Roukoz, he stands a very high chance of winning the seat based on the majoritarian system.
As for the seat in Tripoli, sources said that former Prime Minister Najib Mikati would not compete with the Future Movement as it would be difficult to come out victorious. Also, if a competition between Mikati and the Future Movement breaks out, it could serve the interests of former Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi in the May 2018 general elections.