Daylight saving time usually comes into force in Lebanon on the last weekend of March, as happens in almost all European countries, including Italy: however, on Sunday morning the country woke up in two different time slots. In fact, Prime Minister Najib Mikati has chosen to postpone the entry into force of summer time to next April 20, with a decision considered arbitrary by many citizens and organizations, who are not respecting it. Basically, therefore, now there are those who are still following solar time and those who have switched to summer time instead, with all the problems and with all the confusion of the case.
Mikati had announced his decision to keep standard time for a few more weeks on Thursday rather abruptly, two days before the normally expected change. The Lebanese government has not provided official reasons for the decision, but the video of a meeting between Mikati and the speaker of parliament Nabih Berri obtained by local media has suggested that it may depend on religious reasons.
In the video, published by the Lebanese site Megaphone and quoted by the Associated Press and Al Jazeera, Berri appears to insistently ask Mikati to postpone the entry into force of daylight saving time until the end of Ramadan, the holy month for Muslims, which will end on April 20th. This has led some Christian groups to argue that the decision of Mikati, a Sunni Muslim, has political ends: according to Maronite Catholics, a very influential group in Lebanon, it would be an attempt to gain support among Muslims, given that the decision postponing the time change would allow the fast foreseen by Ramadan to be broken earlier, around 6 pm instead of around 7 pm. In fact, daylight saving time is adopted between March and October, the period in which there are more hours of light, and during the Ramadan Muslims can dine only after sunset.
In theory, both public bodies and citizens and private institutions should follow the government’s guidelines, but this is not the case.
The Maronites, who make up the vast majority of the Christian population in Lebanon, claim that Mikati made the decision without any discussion and without having taken international standards into consideration: in recent days they had announced that they would nevertheless adopt daylight saving time from Sunday 26 March and so they did, as did other Christian religious groups, parties, organizations and schools.
Various private companies and some media outlets, including LBCI and MTV, two of the country’s main news channels, also adopted daylight saving time as early as Sunday, disobeying government guidelines. The majority of Muslim institutions and parties are instead following the new guidelines and are therefore an hour behind other parts of the country.
There are also those who are trying to adapt, with some acrobatics. National airline Middle East Airlines, for example, said its instruments were adjusted to standard time, in line with Mikati’s decision, but that it will adapt flight times to international schedules, which will then be expressed as if the legal one was already in force.
According to some inhabitants and observers, the divisions and confusion that have emerged from the question of the time change would be not only a distraction, but also a sign of the very serious economic, social and political problems of the country, which have worsened mainly due to the enormous explosion that destroyed part of the port of the capital Beirut in August 2020. Lebanon remains deeply conditioned by deep religious divisions, according to the United Nations three quarters of its population live in poverty and furthermore the country has not had a president since last November, from the end of the mandate of Michel Aoun, in office since 2016.
– Read also: Lebanon’s politics, explained easy
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