Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun heads a cabinet meeting at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon. 24 January, 2022. (Photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir)
On 16 February, Beirut’s government on Tuesday approved the allocation of 360 billion Lebanese pounds, amounting to approximately $18 million towards the holding of parliamentary elections.
Acting Information Minister Abbas Halabi said that Prime Minister Najib Mikati recalled that the last parliamentary election in 2018 had cost $54 million, putting this year’s amount at a fraction of the previous one.
The 15 May election would be the first since the outbreak of mass protests in October 2019 against the backdrop of Lebanon’s worst economic crisis.
Approximately half of all of Lebanon’s registered voters took part in the elections of 2018. This year, however, election experts are predicting a measly 30 percent outcome.
Amid Lebanon’s political deadlock, which coincides with extreme financial constraints imposed by the economic crisis, concerns were raised about the possibility of elections being held on time, or being held at all.
Yet the United Nations and other western institutions and governmental bodies have been urging a timely elections process, which they see as an opportunity to potentially change the balance of the 128-member strong parliamentary seats away from the Hezbollah-aligned 8 March majority won in 2018.
For the first time in over three months, the Lebanese cabinet met on 15 January to discuss the 2022 draft budget, published on 21 January and then approved on 10 February.
According to the proposed 2022 budget, Lebanon’s government expects a 20.8 percent deficit, which includes a 5.25 trillion advance paid to the Electricite du Liban in the fuel scarce country.
Most state funding is expected to be drawn from increased import taxes and additional budget cuts. The new draft plan introduces three exchange rates: the former official, but now defunct 23-year-long peg of 1,500 Lebanese pounds to the US dollar; 8,000 pounds to the dollar for import, customs and telecommunications fees, and the third being the current parallel market rate, for state expenditures.