Lebanese premier reverses delay to daylight savings time change

Lebanese premier reverses delay to daylight savings time change

Decision to postpone summer time 'not sectarian,' Najib Mikati says, reversing move after objection by Christian parties

By Wassim Seifeddine

BEIRUT (AA) - Lebanon's caretaker premier has reversed a decision to postpone daylight savings time, announcing that clocks will be turned back as of Wednesday night.

The country will "return to work with the daylight savings time system, starting from the night of next Wednesday/Thursday," Najib Mikati said after a Cabinet meeting on Monday that followed a weekend of uncertainty as parts of the country abided by a decision to postpone daylight savings to relieve Muslims fasting during the holy month of Ramadan, while others did not.

On Friday, the government decided to extend winter time until April 21. The delay sparked widespread controversy and a wave of objections from the Maronite Patriarchate and Christian parties, with many announcing that they would follow daylight savings time without the delay, prompting Mikati to reverse his decision.

"The decision to postpone summer time is not sectarian," he said, adding that the "continuation of winter time until the end of Ramadan was preceded by intensive meetings over a period of months, with the participation of stakeholders, and the aim was to relieve those fasting during Ramadan without causing any harm to anyone."

On Saturday, the Maronite Patriarchate announced in a statement that the decision to postpone daylight savings time "was issued suddenly and improvised, without consultation with the Lebanese (society) components, and without any regard for international standards."

Lawmaker Gebran Bassil, who heads the Free Patriotic Movement party, also said he rejected the decision, tweeting: "It is not permissible to remain silent about it, and we must consider challenging it or disobeying it."

For his part, Mikati stressed that the problem "is not with the hour, but rather the problem with the vacuum in the first position, the presidency of the republic, and I do not bear any responsibility for it."

The controversy comes as Lebanon grapples with an acute political crisis, as parliament has failed in 11 rounds to elect a president to succeed Michel Aoun, whose term ended on Oct. 31 last year.

Mikati's government has been operating since May 2022, as a caretaker and with limited powers, after it was deemed to have resigned following the parliamentary elections that took place in the same month.

Under the 1989 Taif Agreement, which established a power-sharing deal among the country's largest religious sects, Christians hold the country's presidency, Sunnis take the prime ministry and Shias get the parliament speakership.

*Writing by Mahmoud Barakat in Ankara

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