By Wassim Mroueh
The Daily Star

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Parliament approved the electricity bill at a legislative session Thursday following the consensus reached between rival politicians over the draft law a day earlier.

Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun, who had originally proposed the draft law, met with Berri prior to the session. This was the first legislative session Aoun has attended this year.

Marada Movement leader Sleiman Franjieh, Aoun, Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt and MP Talal Arslan left the session after voting for the bill.

Around 60 MPs at Wednesday’s parliamentary joint committees, chaired by Berri and attended by Prime Minister Najib Mikati, agreed on two amendments to the Cabinet’s energy proposal, obliging Energy Minister Jibran Bassil to form a regulatory board and appoint a new board of directors for Electricite du Liban as soon as Parliament endorses the bill.

The government’s proposal initially stated that Bassil should form the regulatory board, known as the Electricity Regulatory Authority within three months and appoint EDL’s board of directors within two months.

Their decision paved the way for the proposal to become a draft law to put to a vote before Parliament Thursday.

“We agree on the draft law in order to preserve solidarity inside the Cabinet but we express reservations on the inclusion of items from the Cabinet proposal in the draft law given the principle of [ministerial] independence of power,” Aoun said at the Parliament session after the vote, according to a statement released by his press office. The FPM leader has long argued that the Energy Ministry, of which his son-in-law is the minister, should maintain control over the electricity plan.

On his way out of Parliament a few minutes after the endorsement of the electricity bill, Aoun hailed Bassil for his work toward the plan.

“This is the achievement of the energy minister and his team, along with Parliament which endorsed the bill,” he said. “It is a victory for all the Lebanese and all those who want electricity.”

Bassil and Aoun’s Change and Reform bloc MPs were not informed prior to the decision endorsed by Berri, Prime Minister Najib Mikati, and other parliamentary allies to approve amendments, which were also supported by MPs from Walid Jumblatt’s National Struggle Front bloc.

Wednesday’s session saw more than two hours of calm discussions, in contrast to the heated debates of earlier meetings.

Opposition lawmakers had been demanding the introduction of amendments which they argued would ensure transparency and proper spending for the project, which is meant to boost Lebanon’s power supply by 700 MW.

Majority politicians have accused March 14 MPs of purposely obstructing the work of the committee.

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(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News ::