BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanon's parliament extended its own mandate until 2017 on Wednesday, a move protesters camped outside and rights groups say denies citizens their democratic privileges.
Lebanese politics has become deadlocked amid security concerns resulting from Syria's civil war next door. Parties supporting the extension bill say the security situation is too unstable to hold elections.
This would be the second postponement of the elections, which should have taken place in June 2013 when parliament's four-year term expired. Ninety-five out of 97 parliamentarians present voted for the bill, Lebanon's National News Agency said.
The agency quoted Christian Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rai as calling the extension "illegitimate and unconstitutional". Angelina Eichhorst, head of the European Union delegation in Lebanon, said on Twitter that Wednesday was "a sad day in Lebanon's constitutional history."
An umbrella group of Lebanese non-governmental groups had urged lawmakers not to extend their mandate. Downtown Beirut, where the parliament is located, was locked down by security forces on Wednesday and protesters hurled tomatoes at police.
(Reporting by Oliver Holmes and Laila Bassam; Editing by Mark Heinrich)