BEIRUT: Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri canceled Tuesday's legislative session due to a boycott by Lebanon’s main Christian parliamentary blocs and parties.
“Only 11 items are left on Parliament’s agenda and since prominent political forces are boycotting today’s session, there won’t be a meeting,” Berri told some 47 lawmakers who showed up in Parliament for Tuesday's session.
MP Michel Aoun's Change and Reform bloc, the Lebanese Forces and the Kataeb are protesting proposed legislation to make temporary Electricite Du Liban (EDL) workers permanent, as they believe the bill as it currently stands would lead to the underrepresentation of Christians in employees' ranks.
Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea said Tuesday that his party stance toward EDL contract workers does not originate from sectarian considerations.
He added that when LF MP George Adwan asked during the legislative session to determine the number of EDL contract workers who would become permanent employees, Berri refused to discuss the issue.
Geagea said that the voting process last night was conducted in a hurry.
"We did not know if there was a majority upon voting and no one even numbered the votes, so we couldn't know who voted with a yes and who voted with a no ... this is not [proper] legislative work," said Geagea.
He called on Berri to meet with all parliamentary blocs in order to set clear mechanisms for legislative work.
MP Sami Gemayel said, " We weren't able to discuss the draft law [regarding EDL contract workers], and we have several questions on the voting; things had to go in a fast momentum."
Aoun said in a press conference Tuesday, “We boycotted the Cabinet meeting because [the Cabinet] proposed a draft law which it could not defend ... What happened yesterday did not respect parliamentary protocols.”
Aoun added that it was unlikely President Michel Sleiman would sign off on the controversial EDL employees’ law and that he would instead send it back to Parliament.
Environment Minister Nazim Khoury made a similar prediction.
“[I would not rule out] the President Michel Sleiman returning the law ... to Parliament,” he said in a statement.
Berri’s announcement of the postponement of the session came following a meeting with Prime Minister Najib Mikati and former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora at his office in Parliament.
Following the postponement, Siniora promised that the dispute would be settled.
"The issue is going to be dealt with. Ideas are being exchanged concerning the draft law," he said.
Later Tuesday, Berri summoned Parliament’s Secretariat, which normally meets after legislative sessions to approve endorsed proposals.
“We did not approve any of the [proposals] endorsed yesterday,” Secretariat member Antoine Zahra, an MP with the LF bloc, told reporters following the meeting at Berri’s Parliament office.
Berri called another meeting of the Secretariat for Thursday.
A Cabinet session scheduled for Tuesday afternoon was also canceled due to a boycott by FPM ministers.
Berri, Mikati, representatives of Hezbollah and the FPM held talks on the matter at the Grand Serail.