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Tuesday, Jan 31, 2023

More MPs join sit-in inside Lebanon’s parliament amid political crisis

More MPs join sit-in inside Lebanon’s parliament amid political crisis

More MPs have joined independent lawmakers staging a sit-in inside Lebanon’s 128-seat parliament to protest at the ongoing vacuum of power.
Protesters held their own sit-in outside parliament in solidarity with MPs angry at the failure to elect a new president.

Reformist MPs Najat Saliba and Melhem Khalaf launched their protest in the plenary hall of parliament last Thursday to put pressure on factions to elect a president, nearly three months on from the post falling vacant.

Reformist MPs Halima Kaakour and Firas Hamdan joined the protesters on Friday night, in addition to George Okais and Razi Al-Hajj from Lebanese Forces.

Khalaf told Arab News: “We are not protesting; we are applying the law.

“We don’t have the right to complain, as the Lebanese people have been living for months without electricity and services.

“Our presence in the plenary hall shows the people that patience results in a functional country.

“We don’t want to convey helplessness to the people.

“Our legal duties compel us, pursuant to article 74 of the constitution, to be present in the parliament without invitation and elect a president without any conditions.”

The MP added that article 75 stipulated that the deputies had turned into an electoral body and “we don’t have the right to perform any other role.”

He added: “Some 26 deputies have arrived in the plenary hall to confirm the eligibility of the step we took.”

Independent deputy Abdel Rahman Al-Bizri said: “There should be a democratic political breakthrough inside parliament. It is the only solution for the crisis.

“The deputies inside the parliament are not staging a protest, but carrying out their duties.

“The parliament has a real chance to carry out its role and elect a president away from any foreign and regional considerations.”

Al-Bizri believes that the action initiated by Khalaf and Saliba may have helped bring matters to a head after 11 failed electoral sessions.

He emphasized that the main purpose of the move was to protect the Lebanese presidential and parliamentary system.

Okais said: “What’s needed is to unify the opposition against Hezbollah and its allies and turn the presidential elections into a purely Lebanese process, if the intentions are good.

“We don’t mind holding a dialogue to discuss a presidential candidate other than Michel Moawad, provided he’s a reformist and sovereign candidate.”

Okais added that he had told the protesting deputies in the hall that what they were doing was “a noble act,” but added he had questioned what was to follow.

He highlighted what he termed a strategic and ideological divergence between the protesting MPs.

He said: “If the opposition does not agree on one name, then the protest will be in vain and similar to climbing up a tree without knowing how to get down.”

Progressive Socialist Party MP Bilal Abdallah said it was necessary to “follow a new dynamic when tackling the presidential election.”

He added: “We don’t boycott nor disrupt the process, but we urge everyone to hold more dialogue that actually generates effective results, rather than futile ones.”

Regarding the results of dialogue between Hezbollah and the Progressive Socialist Party on the presidential elections, Abdallah said: “It revolved around the need to keep elections away from current political alignments and confrontations, and avoid repeating the scenario of the former mandate.

“Dialogue with other political parties continues in order to reach an internal settlement and turn the presidential election into a purely Lebanese process.

“It seems that foreign countries do not care about Lebanon today, and solutions and follow-ups are not their priority. That’s why we took this step and we won’t stop.”

Lebanon has had neither a president nor a fully empowered Cabinet since Michel Aoun’s term ended in October.
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