Lebanon News

Protesters force parliament to postpone session

Parliament Secretary-General Adnan Daher speaks to journalists in Beirut, Nov. 19, 2019. (The Daily Star/Lebanese Parliament, HO)

BEIRUT: Both parliament sessions scheduled Tuesday were indefinitely postponed after hundreds of protesters blocked all the main entrances leading to Beirut's Nejmeh Square, despite a large deployment of security forces.

Lawmakers had been scheduled to elect committee members and then hold a legislative session, including discussion of a series of draft laws that have been strongly opposed by demonstrators. The postponement of the sessions, which opponents hailed as a victory, comes on the 34th consecutive day of nationwide protests in Lebanon.

"The power is with the people,” Ahmad, a 23-year old psychology student told The Daily Star as he blocked a road with other demonstrators in Downtown Beirut. “For a time, we no longer felt that this was true, but the new generation is saying that the power is with us, and we will decide what’s going to happen.”

Instead of electing new committees Tuesday, the mandate of the current committees has been extended, said Adnan Daher, Parliament’s secretary general, around 11 a.m.

“The extension of the committees has happened before,” said caretaker Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil after the announcement.

Khalil added that postponement of the session does not reflect on Parliament’s constitutionality.

The scheduled legislative session angered many demonstrators, who believed that its agenda, which includes the establishment of a specialized court for financial crimes, a general amnesty law and an anti-corruption law, does not meet their demands.

“If there was a single agenda item we saw hope in, we wouldn’t have come down and blocked the street,” Ahmad said.

Legal experts have also raised questions about the constitutionality of the session.

As protesters blocked entrances Tuesday morning, scuffles broke out between security forces and protesters, who removed barricades set up by the entrances to Parliament. Several protesters were injured, including at least one who was seen bleeding from a head wound.

Protesters checked ambulances and other emergency vehicles passing Parliament, suspicious that MPs would try to enter the building hidden inside them.

However, there was some humor at the blockades. A group of men who were attempting to bring a slim cardboard box, apparently containing a poster, through one of the checkpoints were held up by protesters. One shouted, “Check if Gebran Bassil is inside.”

 

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