Lebanese caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati reverses decision on clock change amidst controversy

BEIRUT — The Lebanese government has reversed its decision to delay the daylight savings clock change following widespread controversy and sectarian tensions. The clocks will now move forward an hour on Wednesday night, instead of at the end of the holy month of Ramadan in April.

On Sunday, Lebanon woke up to two different time zones as a dispute between political and religious authorities escalated over a decision to delay the daylight savings clock change by a month.

Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati decided on Thursday to delay daylight savings time by rolling clocks forward an hour on 20 April instead of following the usual schedule at the end of March.

Although no official reason was given for the decision, it was widely seen as a concession to Muslims, allowing them to break their daylight-hours fasts at around 6 p.m. rather than 7 p.m. during the holy month of Ramadan.

However, Lebanon’s influential Maronite church, the largest Christian church in the country, opposed the decision, as did other Christian organizations, parties, and schools.

Muslim institutions and parties appeared set to remain on winter time, further deepening the religious divide in the country. The potential chaos resulting from the conflicting decisions is emblematic of decades of failed governance by leaders that led Lebanon into a 2019 financial crisis, according to many.

Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati defended his initial decision, stating that it was aimed at securing the functioning of public utilities and relieving those who are fasting during Ramadan, without negatively affecting any ethnic group in the country. Mikati called on all Lebanese citizens to assume responsibility towards the situation in the country, protect civil peace, and urgently elect a president for the republic and form a new government.

Mikati emphasized that he does not want to engage in any challenges, competition, or insults to religious and sectarian doctrines. He hinted at his desire to withdraw from the Council of Ministers, blaming the political, spiritual, and parliamentary forces that have failed to elect a president for the country.

The international community has called for the election of a new Lebanese president and the implementation of internal reforms before any agreement can be reached with the International Monetary Fund.