In Lebanese Parliament, sit-in of two deputies to claim election of president

“The people suffer and there is no one to answer them,” argue Najat Saliba and Melhem Khalaf, who have been claiming the end of political blocking since the departure of General Michel Aoun, four months ago. But their initiative does not mobilize civil society.

by Hélène Sallon (Beirut, correspondent)

Since January 19, five nights and five days, two deputies, Najat Saliba and Melhem Khalaf, camp in the enclosure of the deserted Lebanese parliament, in rudimentary conditions, without electricity after 15 hours, and in the water cold for the toilet. Thirty deputies came to show them their support, some take turns to bring them meals and spend the night with them.

By this unprecedented – and somewhat daring – approach in Lebanon, the two elected officials want to shake up the codes of the political game, where each decision is the fruit of long negotiations between community parties to achieve a consensus. They claim the end of the blocking around the election of the president, a position that has remained vacant since the departure of General Michel Aoun, at the end of October 2022.

“Today, the dollar is exchanged at 54,000 Lebanese pounds [against 1,500 before the crisis]. This devaluation has serious consequences on all aspects of life and economics. The people suffer and suffer and There is no one to answer him. Lebanon has neither government nor president or parliament. The only duty of Parliament is to elect a president, but we are faced with a club of politicians who are waiting to share the Power on clientelist and communitarian criteria, “deplores MP Melhem Khalaf, on the phone from inside the Parliament in Beirut. The press was not allowed to enter it.

So to speak master of the place after thirty years spent as president of Parliament, Nabih Berri has so far tried anything to dislodge the two elected officials. The chief of the Shiite party Amal is not ready to give in to them: he will not convene a new session to elect a president as long as an agreement will not be found behind the scenes.

Since November, twelve sessions have been organized without result. The majority camp, led by the Shiite Hezbollah movement and the Amal party, voting white failing to convince its Christian partner, the free patriotic current of Gebran Bassil, to accept their candidate: Sleiman Frangié. Faced with them, the opposition, which brings together the Lebanese forces and Kataëb (Christians) and their Sunni allies, did not bring together a sufficient majority to have its favorite elected, Michel Moawad.

With only twelve deputies out of 129, the camp from the “Thawra” (the 2019 challenge), from which Najat Saliba and Melhem Khalaf came, weighs little, especially since it is undermined by the divisions. The group failed to agree on the name of a candidate. Some of its members vote for Michel Moawad. The two elected officials who occupy parliament do not want to offer a name.

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/Media reports cited above.