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Lebanon: Elections

Volume 476: debated on Monday 19 May 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent reports he has received on the prospects for a free and fair presidential election in (a) Lebanon and (b) the Ivory Coast. (204368)

We are deeply concerned by the ongoing violence in Beirut, and elsewhere in the Lebanon, recently. Such violence makes the election of a new president more difficult than ever. A parliamentary vote, on the election of a new president, was postponed for the 19th time to 10 June. Any deal will need to find an accommodation between the two sides on the key issues of disagreement which include: the presidency; the make up of a future government and a future electoral law.

We fully support the high-level Arab League mission, which arrived in Beirut on 14 May. The UN Security Council, under British presidency, addressed the situation recently. Informal discussions have continued since then and we are working towards a formal meeting this week to ensure strong UN backing for efforts to restore calm and support democratic politics in Lebanon.

We welcome the Ivorian government's decision to hold presidential elections on 30 November 2008, with the agreement of all the major Ivorian political parties. This is a tight deadline which can only be met through a concerted effort from both Ivorian and international institutions. The UN Operation in the Ivory Coast has a mandate to certify the election process. Its most recent report on 15 April, which can be found at:

http://www.un.org/Docs/sc/sgrep08.htm,

indicated that while there was a political consensus on holding elections there was still much work to be done, such as finalising the legal framework for the electoral process. It also noted the elections would bear serious risks if they were not conducted in a transparent, free and credible manner.