BEIRUT: Four March 14 MPs will move into a five-star hotel in Downtown Beirut next week as a security precaution, as meetings of Parliament’s electoral law subcommittee are set to resume.
Minyeh MP Ahmad Fatfat, Metn MP Sami Gemayel, Beirut MP Serge Torsarkissian and Chouf MP George Adwan will check into the hotel sometime between Monday evening and Tuesday morning next week.
The five-story Etoile Suites hotel is located only meters away from Parliament and it, like other Downtown businesses, is struggling. Its occupancy rate currently hovers around 30 percent.
“Now that the New Year’s holidays are over, the hotel will be empty of guests and we are expecting the members of Parliament,” a member of the hotel’s management said Thursday.
A series of assassinations and assassination attempts against March 14 politicians in the past seven years has prompted many members of the coalition to refuse to attend Parliamentary sessions. March 14 members of the subcommittee stopped attending its meetings after the October assassination of Internal Security Forces intelligence chief, Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hasan.
In addition to the political standoff between March 14 and the March 8-dominated government, the boycott of the subcommittee has hindered progress on a new electoral law for the parliamentary polls, tentatively scheduled for early June.
MPs Fatfat and Torsarkissian said they were satisfied with the Lebanese Army’s extra security measures for their safety.
“I have full confidence that the Army has increased its security measures and we will go to the hotel next week to discuss the electoral law,” said Fatfat.
“We are going in with a positive spirit and we will present them [March 8] our electoral law proposal which is based on 50 small districts,” he added.
Torsarkissian said that the meetings would take the form of a “unique dialogue” between the rival sides.
An Army official responsible for the security of Nijmeh Square, where Parliament is located, said there are already sufficient measures in place to ensure the safety of the hotel.
Behind the hotel are Army barracks and an Army checkpoint standing 2 meters from the hotel’s entrance, preventing vehicles from entering the street.
Shops and restaurants near the hotel told The Daily Star that they were given no notice by the police or the Army that a number of lawmakers would be living in the hotel as of next week.
Etoile Suites’ management also refused to formally confirm to The Daily Star that the MPs would be staying at the hotel.
“No one told me anything. There are security personnel [living] throughout the neighborhood anyway,” the owner of a souvenir store near the hotel told The Daily Star. “Business is bad already; the last thing we need is more security,” said the owner, who declined to give his name.
The March 14 lawmakers will likely have plenty of privacy as the hotel’s 21 suites will be almost empty of any guests by this weekend, according to the member of the hotel’s management.
Presently, the prices of the hotel’s diplomatic and royal suites, where the MPs are likely to stay, range between $600-$800 a night.
It won’t be the first time lawmakers concerned for their safety have checked into hotels.
After car bombs claimed the lives of a number of politicians between 2005 and 2007, at least a dozen MPs from the Future Movement took refuge at the Phoenicia Hotel for several months, limiting their movement around the country.