BEIRUT: The Parliament failed to convene Tuesday for a fourth time in just over a month due to lack of quorum, prompting Speaker Nabih Berri to postpone the legislative session yet again. Berri said the next session would take place Sept. 23, with the same agenda items.
As with the last three delayed sessions, MPs from Michel Aoun’s parliamentary Change and Reform bloc, the Future Movement, the Lebanese Forces, the Kataeb Party and independent March 14 MPs, as well as caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati all boycotted the meeting.
“It seems that the boycott has become a new weapon among the weapons the other side uses to prevent the state and its institutions from assuming their constitutional responsibilities,” Hezbollah MP Ali Ammar told reporters.
The Future Movement, the LF, the Kataeb and independent March 14 MPs along with Mikati argue that under a resigned government, Parliament can only convene to discuss urgent issues, not the agenda of 45 items which the session is scheduled to address.
“Our decision not to attend the Parliament session today is based on principle. It expresses our opposition to the infringement on the powers of the prime minister and the government carried out by Speaker Nabih Berri,” Future Movement MP Ahmad Fatfat told a local TV station.
“Our stance is merely constitutional,” Fatfat said.
Berri maintains that Parliament can convene at any time and discuss any issue, until a new Cabinet wins a vote of confidence.
The Free Patriotic Movement opposes the session’s agenda, but not the legitimacy of the meeting. Its leader Michel Aoun voiced his rejection of a draft law to increase the retirement age of top security officials. He also called for adding discussions about the Orthodox Gathering’s electoral proposal to the agenda.
He added that there was no clear criteria upon which the session’s agenda was based.
“Some ask why we did not go to Parliament today. Based on what criteria are draft laws put on the agenda? We are not playing. We want a clear agenda,” Aoun told reporters after chairing the weekly meeting of his parliamentary bloc at his Rabieh residence.
Aoun sad that draft laws referred to Parliament should be placed on the agenda based on their importance. He added that he felt there was no need for his group to attend Parliament sessions, as its opinion was not being taken into consideration.
Berri did not come to Parliament and issued the decision to postpone the session from his Ain al-Tineh residence.
Appearing in Parliament were MPs from Hezbollah, Amal, the Marada Movement, the Progressive Socialist Party, the Baath Party and the Syrian Social Nationalist Party.
Hezbollah’s Ammar voiced his surprise that lawmakers boycotting the session attended meetings of Parliament’s joint committees.
“It is very weird that our colleagues who boycotted this session, which was to pass draft laws to address the needs of the people ... scramble to attend the sessions of the joint committees,” Ammar said. “In the latest joint committee session, the hall could not accommodate all the attending MPs.”
Fatfat hit back, saying his group’s participation in joint committee sessions reflected the fact that it was still involved in legal legislative work.
Parliament has been unable to convene since June.
MP Estephan Douaihy, from the Marada Movement, called on Berri to declare a parliamentary state of emergency, by which Parliament convenes permanently, leading ultimately to dialogue between Lebanese groups so that they reach an agreement.
“Public interest should come first rather than private political interests. Yes, we are all obliged to come to Parliament, or else, why are we paid our salaries?” he said in a news conference.