Parliament voting session on new Lebanon cabinet delayed by power cut

FILE PHOTO: Lebanese policeman stand outside the parliament building in downtown Beirut, Lebanon October 17, 2017. Picture taken October 17, 2017. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

BEIRUT (Reuters) - A power cut forced a delay on Monday to the start of a Lebanese parliamentary session that is scheduled to discuss the new cabinet's policy programme and hold a vote of confidence.

Lebanon is battling one of the deepest depessions of modern times, with worsening fuel shortages translating into few if any hours of state-backed power a day and most Lebanese relying on private generators for electricity.

The session, which had been scheduled to start at 11 am local time (0800 GMT), failed to begin on time as the lights went out in the building now housing the parliament.

It was unclear when the session, in which the cabinet is expected to win the confidence vote, would start.

"What we are seeing today with the power cut in the session is evidence of the collapse of the state," Ossama Saad, an independent member of parliament, told Al Jadeed local television as lawmakers waited outside the hall where they were supposed to meet.

Prime Minister Najib Mikati's government was cobbled together after a year of political deadlock that has compounded Lebanon's economic malaise.

The new government has promised action to address the country's crippling crisis, including talks with the International Monetary Fund and a start to reforms.

Its draft policy programme said it would renew and develop a previous financial recovery plan, which set out a shortfall in the financial system of some $90 billion - a figure endorsed by the IMF.

But Mikati faces a tricky path to solid economic ground as the plan risks hitting the same resistance from officials and bankers it faced before, but some believe the gravity of the crisis may encourage many to make decisions they had previously resisted.

Lebanon's financial system unravelled in late 2019. The root cause was decades of profligate spending by the state and the unsustainable way in which it was financed.

(Reporting By Maha El Dahan and Laila Bassam; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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