Lebanon News

Lebanese indifferent to heated Parliament tirades

The long hours of televised debate left many people cold. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)

BEIRUT: This week MPs were raising their voices, pounding podiums and trading insults as they fought over the country’s politics in Parliament, but many Lebanese are responding to the theatrics with a collective shrug.

“They are acting like children and we don’t have confidence in them,” said one man drinking coffee outside a shop in Hamra, Beirut.

Inside, commercial adviser Hanna Sawwan was equally unimpressed.

As politicians wrangle over such charged issues as Hezbollah’s weapons, the Syrian uprising and the new electoral law, Sawwan and many others were unconcerned about the disputes boiling over into nation-destabilizing conflicts.

The commercial adviser from Beirut said that everyone knows the Parliament is impotent. He said real deals and political solutions are made outside of the legislature, on the MPs’ own schedule. “I think there’s a general agreement for stability in the country,” Sawwan said. “History tells you these things have never led to a solution of basic problems.”

On a sunny day in Beirut, as the city entered its first warm days of spring, many people simply had a list of other things to do before tuning into the hackneyed personal attacks and regurgitated talking points of a legislative session.

Eating, work and shopping all took priority over the Parliament, and those who wanted to keep track of what happened said they would skim the next day’s news reports. Some people had even given up figuring out who all the MPs are.

“I didn’t know Parliament was holding sessions,” said 22-year-old Samiha Assaad, as she took a break from her work at a clothing store.

Sitting outside a cafe as cars backed up along Hamra Street in the morning, Hamid Mounir was dismissive. He has seen MPs come and go, with little getting done. He gave up interest in political proceedings long ago.

“Nobody represents me,” the 65-year-old retiree said about his lack of faith in elected representatives.

Mounir had no stock in the MPs having any sort of collective responsibility to the people. They are all self-interested, he said. “It’s a waste of time definitely for most Lebanese ... They don’t meet on TV; it’s only a show.”

A sense of pointlessness even crept into the parliamentary proceedings. After over 50 speeches over three days and numerous interruptions, a visibly disinterested Speaker Nabih Berri let slip to a live microphone: “I’m personally disgusted – have you seen a parliamentary session like this?”

Some MPs walked out, while others slouched in their chairs as the session dragged on.

On the street, even the more politically inclined felt the same sense of ennui. “It’s just a show, It’s all a waste of time,” said Joseph Haddad, a political adviser, as he relaxed with friends in Ashrafieh.

Haddad said there were major problems in society, such as the electricity shortage, that were going unaddressed as politicians bickered over personal and ideological issues.

As the fifth Parliament since the end of the Civil War wound down one of its numerous sessions with more high volume speeches and blank stares from inside the chamber, Natalie, who identifies with the March 14 coalition, was careful to tune out.

“It’s mindless people, and the same speeches,” she said while taking a coffee break in Ashrafieh. She wasn’t interested in watching, even though she sympathized with some politicians over others.

Her friend Suzy chimed in, saying she gave up on politics years ago.

“There is no need; you can’t understand the politics here,” she said.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 20, 2012, on page 3.

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