BEIRUT: The agreement hammered out by Speaker Nabih Berri to resume meetings of the electoral law subcommittee hinges on security measures that would allow March 14 committee members to stay at a hotel near Parliament under the protection of the Lebanese Army.
But the hotel said Thursday that it had yet to receive an official request to host the March 14 lawmakers who are to resume work early next year.
“No one has contacted us over the matter. We heard about it on TV and we see people [journalists] taking photos of the hotel,” said a member of the management at Etoile Suites, who requested to remain anonymous.
Berri called Thursday on the subcommittee to hold a meeting at Parliament on Jan. 8.
A source familiar with the arrangements confirmed media reports that the lawmakers would stay at Etoile Suites, which is near Parliament, adding that the request had not been made because of security concerns.
In March 2006, heads of parliamentary blocs from the March 14 coalition stayed at the hotel, while they were attending National Dialogue sessions in Parliament launched by Berri.
Asked whether the hotel would still receive regular guests during the expected stay of MPs, the manager said that this would depend on how many suites are needed and the length of the stay.
“We have to see what their demand will be and whether this suits us. We won’t accept it if they book five suites for example and ask us to close the entire hotel,” he explained. “We are not obliged to accept this if it does not meet our interest.”
The Etoile Suites manager said that the 21-suite-hotel currently has an occupancy ranging between 70 and 75 percent, and that the average cost for one night at the hotel exceeds $200.
For Future Movement official and Minyeh MP Ahmad Fatfat, a member of the subcommittee, it wouldn’t be the first time that he will stay at a hotel due to security concerns.
“I stayed at the Grand Serail for a year and a half,” he said, referring to the period when he was a minister in the Cabinet of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. “We are staying now at our homes [for security reasons], which is not that different,” Fatfat explained.
The MP said his family would not be with him at the hotel, adding that the March 14 coalition did not demand that the hotel be emptied of its guests during the MPs’ stay.
“We haven’t set such a condition. It’s okay with me, as long as the hotel is under the protection of the Lebanese Army,” he said.
Fatfat said that his March 14 coalition has demanded, however, that the committee holds intensive meetings within one week to finish its job.
Following the October assassination of Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hasan, March 14 began a boycott of the subcommittee over security concerns.
Formed in October, the subcommittee was tasked with working with different parliamentary blocs to reach an agreement on the type of the electoral system and the size of districts in a draft electoral law which the government presented to Parliament.
The subcommittee, comprising MPs from rival blocs, was supposed to finish its work within three weeks but hasn’t met since October.
Earlier this week, the March 14 coalition announced it would end its boycott after Berri proposed that March 14 members of the subcommittee who feel threatened could stay at a hotel near Parliament under the protection of the Army.