BEIRUT: Bunking MPs at a Downtown hotel was just one of the security measures enacted Tuesday to ensure the safety of several lawmakers, as meetings of the electoral law subcommittee resumed.
Although there are Army barracks and at least four Army checkpoints in Nijmeh Square, additional soldiers were deployed to ensure that the lawmakers, many of whom have received threats against their lives in recent months, made it to Parliament safely.
Following breakfast at the Etoile Suites’ rooftop restaurant in the morning, four March 14 MPs were escorted a couple of hundred meters from the hotel to Parliament.
The hotel’s narrow lobby has begun to resemble a military headquarters rather than a five-star hotel, and the Army set up a new row of metal fences on the street nearby.
The MPs have said they will likely remain there until next week.
Since Monday, the hotel has been home to Sami Gemayel, Serge Torsarkissian, Ahmad Fatfat, George Adwan and Akram Shehayeb.
The meeting between representatives of the opposition and the majority ended a three-month boycott of parliamentary meetings that was launched by March 14 following the assassination of senior security chief Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hasan in October.
Adwan described his stay at the hotel as “house arrest.”
“Does anyone feel comfortable under house arrest?” he asked before entering the meeting at 10:30 a.m.
The morning meeting, which lasted over three hours, was followed by an afternoon meeting that went late into the evening.
Kataeb MP Sami Gemayel said his first night at the hotel was “exhausting.”
Torsarkissian told The Daily Star that he found the media’s interest in his stay at the hotel frustrating, pointing to requests by some outlets to bring cameras to his room.
“It is really annoying to stay away from your family, even though you are in a five-star hotel,” he added.
Some Future Movement MPs who are not members of the subcommittee went to Parliament despite security threats. March 8 lawmakers also went to their officers at Parliament.
“I have no information that I am threatened by assassination. I am a person who believes in fate,” said Future Movement MP Mohammad Hajjar on his way to his office.
Members of the subcommittee are meeting to discuss controversial points of a draft electoral law, a highly divisive topic among the country’s MPs.
“The Orthodox Gathering [draft] law is the worst draft law ever. It amounts to committing suicide on the part of Christians,” Beirut MP Mohammad Qabbani said. “I will emigrate from Lebanon if it is passed.”
The draft law, which Christian parties meeting at Bkirki agreed on over the weekend, would allow every sect to elect its own MPs under a proportional representation system with one nationwide district.
Although the subcommittee was established in order to facilitate an agreement between rival parties on a new electoral law, Hasbaya MP Qassem Hashem said that – despite a resumption of meetings – elections were unlikely to be held at all.
He said that people are more interested in tackling the repercussions of the storm that has crippled Lebanon than following news of talks on elections.
In a tweet that evening, Gemayel said that he was missing out on the snowfall in his hometown of Bikfaya in Metn.
“The only thing that can make me miss the snow in Bikfaya is working on an important matter for my country such as a new electoral law,” he tweeted.
Although members of the subcommittee refused to give details of Tuesday’s discussion to reporters, some of them had separate chats with media outlets affiliated with their parties.