Failure to secure funds and logistics necessary to provide uninterrupted power supply to polling stations on May 15 might become an excuse to postpone the parliamentary elections, a media report said on Tuesday.
“Electricite du Liban has informed the Interior Minister that it will only be able to supply a third of the polling stations with electricity,” al-Akhbar newspaper reported.
EDL chief Kamal Hayek told the Minister that “alternative solutions must be sought.”
“To salvage the elections, the rental of power generators, perhaps more than one for each polling center, has been suggested… This necessitates securing diesel and paying for it in advance with fresh dollars,” al-Akhbar said, noting that parliament’s recent approval of parliamentary elections funds does not cover electricity expenses.
Interior Minister Bassam al-Mawlawi meanwhile announced overnight Monday/Tuesday that he would secure uninterrupted power supply on the polling day and until the announcement of results, noting that “there are many choices” in this regard.
Mawlawi had said Friday that EDL is charging $16 million to supply power on the day of the May 15 parliamentary polls, a sum that exceeds the overall election budget by nearly 30 percent.
“I held several meetings with EDL, which apparently couldn’t provide electricity except at a very high cost,” IMawlawi said.
“The entire elections, at home and abroad, don’t cost this much,” Mawlawi said, saying his total budget for the vote was capped at $12.5 million.
Mawlawi was adamant the government was working for the polls to go ahead as scheduled, despite persistent rumors they could be called off.
Lebanon, grappling with an unprecedented economic crisis since 2019, and which defaulted on its debt in March 2020, has suffered from severe power shortages for nearly a year — largely because the government can’t afford fuel for power stations.
Power cuts last up to 22 hours a day in most regions, forcing many to rely on expensive generator subscriptions to keep the lights on.
The international community has long demanded a complete overhaul of Lebanon’s loss-making electricity sector — which has cost the government more than $40 billion since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war — as one of the basic conditions to disburse billions of dollars in desperately needed financial support.
EDL had asked for its payment in cash, Mawlawi said.
Mawlawi said the government may turn to private generators to power voting centers, which will need electricity to light the room at night when the votes are counted immediately after polls close.
“I can’t rely on the state because despite the high cost demanded, EDL can’t guarantee solid results… which may lead to a sudden blackout,” the interior minister said.
“The issue of electricity is the biggest problem facing Lebanon… but we will be able to solve it for the day of elections,” he added.