BEIRUT: A session of the joint parliamentary committees to examine a draft law to allow grandchildren of Lebanese paternal grandfathers to apply for citizenship failed Tuesday over lack of quorum, as MP Neamatallah Abi Nasr said there was still no consensus on the bill.
“There is still a lengthy debate over the law, and it seems there is no political decision yet to grant expatriates their right to the Lebanese nationality,” Abi Nasr, who attended the session, told The Daily Star.
Speaker Nabih Berri, who was supposed to chair the session, did not attend the meeting. Lawmakers from various blocs held two-hour talks over the bill, but lacked quorum after many of them left the meeting. No date for a new session was scheduled.
The session included the parliamentary Finance, Justice and Administration, Foreign Affairs, Defense, Interior and Municipalities committees.
Under the current law, expatriates of Lebanese descent can only receive citizenship from their father. Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil said earlier this month that he had received political promises from both Berri and the Future Movement that they would back the draft law.
Abi Nasr, a member of the Change and Reform bloc, said the promises of Berri and the Future Movement were not fulfilled.
“They promised us but did not fulfill their promises; this session proved the contrary of the words we got from them,” he said.
Abi Nasr expressed regret over Lebanese political groups' “neglect of the expatriates’ rights.”
“This is unacceptable,” he said.
In 2011, former Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s Cabinet approved a draft law allowing people of Lebanese descent who were born abroad and only have the citizenship of the country of their birth to apply for Lebanese citizenship as well.
The law sparked criticism from women's rights activists. The current Lebanese law does not allow women to pass on citizenship to their spouse or children.
Women's rights organization KAFA issued a statement Monday saying they were against the law and that the priority should be given to a bill allowing Lebanese women to pass their nationality to their children.
Abi Nasr proposed a similar law in 2004 that was not approved in Parliament.
The latest draft law would help Lebanese expatriates take part in future parliamentary elections by voting at Lebanese embassies abroad. Some political groups say this could the tip of the elections in their favor, with the country's Christian factions expected to be the biggest beneficiaries.
The number of Lebanese living outside the country is thought to be at least double the number of citizens living inside, with a significantly higher proportion of Christians among the disapora than among citizens.