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Lebanese Parliament postpones elections, extends its term 17 for months

BEIRUT — The Lebanese Parliament postponed upcoming elections on Friday, extending its term 17 months because of deteriorating security conditions related to Syria’s civil war.

The decision, which had been expected, marks the first time that Parliament has had to extend its term since Lebanon’s own 15-year civil war ended in 1990, and it underlines the growing turmoil in the country spilling over from the conflict in its neighbor.

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It is widely seen as a blow to Lebanon’s tradition of free elections, but it may help lower tensions at a critical time for the fragile and deeply divided country.

Dozens of people have been killed in Lebanon over the past two years in clashes between pro- and anti-Syrian Lebanese groups, making it difficult to hold elections amid tension.

Ninety-seven legislators in the 128-seat body voted in favor of extension in a session that lasted 10 minutes, state-run National News Agency said. The Parliament postponed elections from June until November 2014.

Friday’s decision also comes after rival blocs in the legislature failed to agree on a new elections law.

Both pro- and anti-Syrian blocs in Parliament agreed on the extension, with one exception being the Free Patriotic Movement of Christian leader Michel Aoun. The FPM is the second largest bloc in Parliament.

Aoun and President Michel Suleiman have said they will challenge the extension, although that is unlikely to affect Friday’s decision given the size of the majority.

Defenders say the decision was a necessary evil.

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