Lebanon PM reverses daylight saving time decision after 48 hours of anarchy

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BEIRUT – The Lebanese government announced the restoration of daylight saving time on Monday, reversing an earlier decision to delay the move by a month that had caused panic and confusion across the country.

After a cabinet meeting, caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati announced that the clock will be set to save daylight saving time on Wednesday at midnight.

Lebanon usually observes daylight saving time, which aligns with the Eastern European time zone, from the end of March to the end of October.

But last Thursday, the government announced a last-minute decision to postpone the change until the end of April, which coincides with the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The move was seen as a favor to the Muslim community, which would allow the fast to end an hour earlier, at sunset.

“The previous decision to continue working according to winter time until the end of Ramadan was taken after months of intense meetings between the ministers and stakeholders to give some relief to those who were fasting, without harming any other component,” Mikati said after Monday. meeting, in an attempt to defend the controversial move.

Social media users circulated leaked footage of an informal meeting between Mikati and parliament speaker Nabih Berri casually discussing the issue of the delay hours before the announcement last week, prompting a wave of criticism and ridicule.

The previous decision also caused a division between the Lebanese, taking a sectarian form in some cases. It also added to the wave of protests and unrest seen in the country in response to the economic crisis and political vacuum since October.

Despite the government’s move, the Maronite Patriarchate announced that it will adopt summer time according to international standards. Some schools followed suit. Local news outlets, including MTV and LBCI, also said they will not abide by the government’s decision. Nadim Gemayel, a member of the Christian Kataeb party, said that his party will also ignore the government’s decision.

“[Muslims] to have their time; we have our time. They have their mini-states, we have Lebanon,” he said in a tweet, citing a famous quote from author Gebran Khalil Gebran, “You have your Lebanon, I have Lebanon,” as a reference to bickering politicians.

Meanwhile, Muslim institutions and businesses seemed to remain during the winter.

Hassan Moraib, an official at Dar al-Fatwa, Lebanon’s Sunni Muslim authority, criticized the decision of MTV and LBCI in a tweet on Saturday, calling them “racist” and “sectarian.”

Lebanon has a history of sectarian strife. The 1975-90 civil war pitted Muslim forces and Palestinian factions against predominantly Christian forces.

Despite the confusion, the government appeared to go ahead with its decision – before reversing it on Monday.

Last week, the country’s national carrier, Middle East Airlines, decided to push all departing flights forward by an hour, but said its clocks and other devices would remain on during the winter. A video of a clock at Beirut international airport showing two different times over the weekend was widely shared on social media.

Mobile phone users across the country have reported receiving a text message from the two main local providers asking them to manually turn off the “automatic date and time” switch on their phones.

Meanwhile, many have rushed to deny the sectarian debate that led to the decision, instead venting their anger at the politicians they accuse of fomenting strife among the Lebanese, and failing to tackle the pressing problems in the country. Lebanon, grappling with a worsening economic crisis, has been without a president since October 2022.

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