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Lebanon wakes up in two time zones amid dispute over daylight savings



Delayed decision

Lebanon has woken up in two time zones amid an escalating dispute between political and religious authorities over a decision to extend winter time for a month. Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati issued a decision on Thursday to delay entering daylight savings time till April 20, instead of rolling the clocks forward an hour on the last weekend of March.

Disregard for decision

On Saturday, the influential Maronite Church said it would disregard the decision and would set its clocks forward on Saturday night. Mikati’s decision was seen as an attempt to score a win among Muslims by allowing those fasting during Ramadan to break their fasts at approximately 6pm instead of 7pm. The Maronite Church called the decision “surprising” and said there had been no consultations with other actors or considerations of international standards.

Deepening divides

Other Christian organisations, parties and schools announced they would follow the Church. Meanwhile, Muslim institutions and parties appeared set to remain on winter time, deepening divides in a country that witnessed a 1975-1990 civil war between Christian and Muslim factions and where parliament seats are allocated by religious sect.

Calls for disobedience

Businesses and media organisations, including two of Lebanon’s main news channels LBCI and MTV, announced they too would enter daylight savings on Saturday night as calls for disobedience gained steam. LBCI said in a statement that it would disobey Mikati’s decision because it would have harmed its work, adding: “Lebanon is not an island”.

Chaos emblematic of decades of failed governance

Many have said the uncertainty and potential chaos were emblematic of decades of failed governance by leaders that led Lebanon into a 2019 financial crisis the World Bank said was “orchestrated” by elites. Mikati, a Sunni Muslim, announced the decision after a meeting on Thursday with Shia parliament speaker Nabih Berri, who repeatedly insisted on the change, according to a video of the meeting published by Lebanese outlet Megaphone.

Criticism on social media

Independent MP Waddah Sadek said on Twitter that decisions were taken without “any consideration for the consequences or confusion that they cause”. Social media users also ridiculed the divide and sarcastically questioned what was more confusing, the two time zones or the Lebanese pound’s exchange rate, which changes nearly every day. The pound sunk to a historic low against the US dollar on the country’s parallel market earlier this month.




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