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Lebanese MPs, be aware: Tomatoes await

Protesters rallying against the extension of the Parliament term, throw tomatoes at the car of a lawmaker in Beirut, Friday, May 31, 2013. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: The self-styled "Tomato Revolution," organized by the Civil Movement for Accountability, mailed their Lebanese lawmakers boxes with tomatoes as a reminder of what will be coming their way should they extend Parliament's mandate for the second time in less than two years.

On May 31, 2013, days before the scheduled parliamentary election, MPs from the country’s various blocs headed to Parliament and passed a draft law that extended their mandate for 17 months, citing security concerns.

The real reason, however, was the lack of an agreement on a new election law that suited the ambitions of each party as Christian lawmakers, backed by Bkirki, were adamant on rejecting the law in effect - the 1960 election law.

Civil society activists lined up the road leading to Nejmeh Square in Downtown Beirut on that Friday and hurled tomatoes at the tinted-window SUVs and luxury vehicles as they made their way to Parliament to vote.

Since the extension, lawmakers have held few if any parliamentary committee sessions to discuss the proposed draft laws.

This year, the Civil Movement for Accountability sent a short notice; a small white box with a tomato inside and a sticker that read: "No to extension."

The group posted pictures of its members packaging the tomatoes with one of the volunteers telling a local television channel that they would make sure MPs receive the gesture.

Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk thought it was a "funny idea" when he saw the boxes at Speaker Nabih Berri's office Saturday, during talks about the possibility of extending the mandate.

"I saw the tomatoes at Berri's. It is a funny idea anyways. This is their right, to express themselves in politics. I cannot deny anyone’s right in this matter," he told reporters after his meeting with the speaker.

He then affirmed what many Lebanese knew would happen once again when he said: "From my position as an interior minister, I do not think that the security situation allows for the election to be held in the next months."

“We are all seeing and living these security developments, as we observe the conflict reaching Lebanon. As a preliminary observation, the security situation will prevent the election from being held on time.”

The Parliamentary election is scheduled to be held in November with many officials saying the poll would not take place, the only remaining question is how long it will be delayed.

Last month, the Civil Campaign for Electoral Reform slammed Parliament Monday over the possible extension of its mandate, warning against a political environment that appears to be leaning toward extension.

 

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Summary

On May 31, 2013, days before the scheduled parliamentary election, MPs from the country's various blocs headed to Parliament and passed a draft law that extended their mandate for 17 months, citing security concerns.

The real reason, however, was the lack of an agreement on a new election law that suited the ambitions of each party as Christian lawmakers, backed by Bkirki, were adamant on rejecting the law in effect -- the 1960 election law.

Since the extension, lawmakers have held few if any parliamentary committee sessions to discuss the proposed draft laws.

Last month, the Civil Campaign for Electoral Reform slammed Parliament Monday over the possible extension of its mandate, warning against a political environment that appears to be leaning toward extension.


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